Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Dogs in the outdoors – things to remember

Mar 21, 2024 01:10PM ● By Braden Nelsen
The stare down – even small dogs can cause serious damage to wildlife like deer if not kept on a leash. Courtesy photo

The stare down – even small dogs can cause serious damage to wildlife like deer if not kept on a leash. Courtesy photo

DAVIS COUNTY—Dogs, whether on leash or off, are not an uncommon sight on hiking trails around the state, even here in Davis County. Although there may be some confusion on leash laws in Utah, the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) wants to make a few things clear before residents start hitting the trails this spring and summer.

The regulations, as they often do, all come back to respect for fellow recreators, for pets, and for wildlife. Spring is the time that sees many wilderness areas filled with deer, having come down from higher elevations in search of much-needed food. They’ve spent a long winter grazing, and foraging for what food they could find beneath the snow, and now, those meager stores, as well as their stores of energy, are depleted. 

“If they get chased – especially if it happens again and again – it uses up energy they may need to survive those sensitive times of year,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Big Game Coordinator Dax Mangus said. “While we had a milder winter than last year, this is still a sensitive time of year for deer. Their fat storage is often depleted by this time of year, and they often can’t afford to waste energy. If you or a pet force them to move away from where they are trying to feed, it could be harmful for that animal.”

Technically speaking, dogs are allowed to be off-leash in national forests, however, the Utah DWR reminds recreators that pets “must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet while in developed recreation areas (like campsites) and on established interpretive trails. Most of the other areas within national forests do not require dogs to be on a leash, but they must be under the owner’s control at all times.”

This can cause a bit of consternation. After all, it’s healthy for dogs to be off-leash once in a while. This may be the case, but, in public areas, and wilderness areas, it can cause more harm than good, “Pets allowed to run at large also are at risk from vehicles, mountain bikes, and other types of recreation use,” Dave Whittekiend, forest supervisor for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest said. “If you care about your pets, you should keep them secured while you are recreating outdoors.” In addition, DWR offered these helpful tips to keep in mind with dogs in wilderness areas:

• Keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date.

• Be aware that moose can be especially aggressive toward dogs.

• Always supervise pets when outdoors, particularly at dawn and dusk.

• If you find an animal carcass, leave the area – it could be a kill that a cougar is guarding or will be returning to.

• Make noise while hiking.

• Do not allow dogs to “play with” or chase wildlife. It is against Utah law to allow dogs to chase or harass hoofed wildlife.

It’s always helpful to remember, that no matter the dog, they all descended from larger, wild, and aggressive creatures. It’s in their instinct, and their nature to chase, to hunt, and to survive. Following these guidelines can keep not only your dog safe, but the surrounding wildlife, and other recreators safe as well.