In mid-January in the Ridgway area, two deer died after being chased by dogs. One deer was killed by the dogs; the other had to be euthanized. The dogs’ owner was ticketed and paid a fine of $276. Fines, however, can total more than $1,000 depending on the circumstances. The incident was reported by neighbors who observed the attacks. “Dog attacks on deer are absolutely brutal,” said DOW Montrose Area Wildlife Manager DelPiccolo. “Dogs tend to hamstring deer by biting at the animal's legs. But many times they also like to bite and grab hold of the face.” This is the time of year when deer are weak, gathered in small groups and are easy targets for dogs, DelPiccolo explained. “Dogs chase wildlife at all times of year, but winter is the worst time. Deer are at their most vulnerable [now] because they are in survival mode. If they get chased it uses up their energy and they might not survive the winter."
During winter, big game animals can lose 30 percent or more of their body weight. Many female big game animals are pregnant at this time of year, so they especially need to conserve energy.
Dogs will also chase elk and bighorn sheep; but deer are the most common target. Although many dog owners can't believe their pets chase wildlife, when some dogs see large animals they may act on their genetic instincts and give chase. Dogs should remain secured when owners aren't present. If left off-leash in a yard, dogs can get out, chase wildlife and be back on the porch by the time the owner gets home from work. Dogs observed chasing or harassing wildlife can be shot by law- enforcement officers. A landowner can shoot a dog that is harassing livestock. Most cities and counties in Colorado also have leash laws that require keeping pets secure.
Pets allowed to run at large also are at risk from vehicles and predators. If you care about your pets, it's in their best interest to keep them secured, DelPiccolo said. People are also reminded that feeding big game is illegal. Feeding concentrates animals in groups, making them easier targets for dogs and predators. When animals are in close contact diseases can be spread quickly among the animals. If you see someone feeding big game, call the DOW.
While dogs chase large animals, cats also cause problems because they kill birds. Cat owners should limit the amount of time their cats spend outdoors. Using a bell collar can sometimes help to warn birds that danger is approaching. Anyone who sees dogs chasing wildlife should call the local Colorado Division of Wildlife office, local animal control or other local law enforcement agencies. Phone numbers for all DOW offices can be found online at: wildlife.state.co.us/About/OfficesAndPhone/. For more information about Division of Wildlife go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us.