Animals are usually in survival mode making them vulnerable and weak at the start of spring.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Division of Wildlife Resources would like to remind people taking advantage of the Utah outdoors to make sure pets don’t chase or harass any wildlife.

Dogs and other pets should be kept on a leash when camping or hiking in Utah.

It is against state law. The law states any person may kill or injure a dog that is “attacking, chasing or worrying any species of hoofed protected wildlife.”

It’s a struggle for Utah’s wildlife to find food during the winter. Many animals are usually in survival mode making them vulnerable and weak at the start of spring. Well fed and cared for dogs that are off leash while in wildlife areas may act on their instincts to chase deer and other big game animals they see.

“If they get chased, it uses up energy they may need to survive,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Big Game Coordinator Covy Jones said. “These animals are already depleted, 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.”

Deer and other big game animals may wander to lower elevations in search of feed during the snowy winter months, which often brings them closer to roads and other populated urban areas where people and pets may be.

Unleashed dogs can cause problems for big game coming out of winter.

“National forests are some of the areas where people may encounter wildlife while recreating,” Dixie National Forest Public Affairs Officer Kevin Abel said. “While pets are allowed in all national forests, they 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.”

While there are many other areas throughout the state where dogs aren’t required to stay on a leash, 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.

Wildlife is often unpredictable and may injure or kill a dog seen as threatening,” Jones said.

Dogs that are off leash can also disturb nesting ground birds and can chase, injure or kill small mammals, deer, elk or moose.

Dogs should be wearing a leash in the outdoors right now to protect wildlife.

“Pets allowed to run at large also are at risk from vehicles and predators,” 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.”

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