Due to the deep snowfall this winter, deer, elk and other big game animals have migrated into lower-elevation areas looking for food sources. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources wants to remind dog owners to keep their pets under control after several recent instances where deer and other big game were chased by dogs, and an elk was injured. Utah’s wildlife often struggles to find food during the winter, and some animals — like deer and elk — rely heavily on the body fat reserves they built up during the previous summer. Mid-winter and early spring are especially vulnerable times for these animals. Data from recent DWR monitoring efforts show that the extreme cold and increased snowpack across the state this winter are starting to impact mule deer fawn survival rates, and may negatively impact the ability of the adult deer to survive the winter. With so many big game animals migrating into valleys this winter, there have been increased conflicts in both rural and urban areas. Dogs that are off leash — or not contained within a yard — may act on their instincts to chase deer and other big game animals they see. However, that is harmful for big game animals because by the end of winter, they are usually surviving on fat reserves. While there are many areas throughout the state where dogs aren’t required to stay on a leash while hiking, pet owners should not let their dogs chase deer, elk, moose or other wild animals. It can be harmful not only for the wildlife, but also can be dangerous for your pet. Dogs that are off leash can also disturb nesting ground birds in the spring and can chase, injure or kill small mammals, deer, elk or moose. It is also in your best interest to not allow your pet to chase wildlife, because Utah law states that a person may kill or injure a dog that is “attacking, chasing or worrying any species of hoofed protected wildlife.”

Courtesy Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Courtesy Utah Division of Wildlife Resources


Here are some other tips for pet owners from Wild Aware Utah to help keep your dogs safe around wildlife while hiking or in the back yard.

Keep your dog's vaccinations up to date.

Be aware that moose can be especially aggressive towards dogs.

Supervise your pets outdoors, particularly around dawn and dusk.

Avoid going near den sites and thick vegetation.

If you see an animal carcass, leave the area. That could be an indication of a cougar kill, and that cougar could still be in the area or returning in the near term.

Make plenty of noise while you are hiking.

Do not allow dogs to “play with” or chase wildlife. Again, it is against the law.

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