If you're into hiking and camping, there's no better companion than Man's Best Friend. But it's important to keep him on a leash whenever possible, for reasons you might not have imagined. According to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife division, dogs that chase wild animals can cause some pretty serious problems. First, it's the risk to the wild animals: Dogs that chase wild animals can cause them extreme stress and injuries from bites. They add that by late winter, many big-game animals susceptible to dog harassment are pregnant females. As they run to escape, deer and elk expend crucial energy that can lead to an increase in the mortality rate of the animals or their unborn calves and fawns. Second, there's the risk to the dog: Dogs that are allowed to interact with wildlife are also at a significant risk of being injured or killed by a wild animal, or at risk of being put down by a peace officer enforcing state wildlife laws. Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins of Steamboat Springs warns that mountain lions, bears or a pack of coyotes can easily make a meal of a dog. "Predators do not differentiate between their natural prey and a dog," says Haskins.
Thirdly, there's the risk to you, the owner. Many large ungulates see dogs as a serious predatory threat, and will chase any dog that approaches them...right back to you. In 2013, wildlife officials in Colorado's Northwest Region investigated three incidents in which a moose injured a person. In two of the incidents, barking dogs running off-leash first approached the moose before it charged the dogs and their owners. In the other case, a cow moose with a days-old calf charged and seriously injured a woman that walked her leashed dog near the animals.
Libbie Miller, District Wildlife Manager in Steamboat Springs, sums it up: "We want people to get outdoors and have fun with their dogs, just keep them away from wild animals."