Springtime in the Rockies means migration of humans camping, hiking, and recreating in national forest service lands. It's also a time when wildlife is highly vulnerable and weakened from the winter season.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is issuing advice to help humans coexist with wild animals as they move through the late winter and early spring conditions.
Wildlife in northern Utah emerges from the winter season weakened and looking for new green growth as their digestive systems shift to a summer diet. Many females are carrying babies with June delivery time frames.
DWR spokesperson Faith Heaton-Jolley said people who love the outdoors and want to bring their pets while recreating can help wildlife survive during this challenging season by keeping their dogs leashed.
“It’s just kind of a delicate time for them,” she said of the wildlife. “If they potentially get chased by a dog, the dog off-leash while you're hiking or something, they're chasing some of these big game animals, it uses up that energy that they may need to survive, which could definitely be detrimental to them. And also, you know it could be dangerous for your pet as well. We love our pets. You know a lot of people have pets and take them outdoors. That's great, but yeah, we definitely want you to keep them leashed because it could be a safety concern if they start to chase a moose. For example, they can often get aggressive."
KPCW has received several reports about dogs finding fresh kills in Round Valley. Heaton-Jolley said this could pose a different set of concerns for your safety and your pet's safety from predators.
“We do live in wildlife country,” she said. “There are cougars; there are bears and a lot of times, they could potentially kill a deer or an elk or something in an area that you may be hiking, near a trail, or something. So, your dog follows their natural instincts. They may be drawn to that as well. So that's another potential danger. If there is a fresh kill, potentially that's kind of a cache site for a cougar or bear. And they may be coming back through to that area. And so that could be another potential wildlife conflict."
The DWR closes a section of the north side of Round Valley during the winter months. Keeping people out of sensitive areas gives animals a better chance of survival.
"Basically, in the spring, when all the greenery starts coming up, they slowly transition to that diet and away from their kind of woody-sagebrush diet they have in the winter. So that's kind of another reason that they're a little sensitive. They're switching over to that, and it makes them a little weak, and if your pet is chasing them away from that kind of feeding area, that can waste some of their energy as well, whether transitioning. So, they're just really sensitive right now. That's partly why we close a lot of our wildlife management areas, you know, from early in the year until spring. They're just pretty vulnerable and so we want people to be conscientious of that and when possible, keep your pet on a leash. It keeps them safe keep the wildlife safe."
Wild Aware Utah has information on best practices to coexist with animals in nature.