Off-Leash Dogs Harass And Kill Wildlife

A fawn with a compound leg fracture is comforted while waiting for Fish & Game. Photo Credit: WRW

A Fish & Game appeal to citizens


In February, two incidents were reported of off-leash dogs chasing deer,  one in Bellevue and one in Hailey. In Hailey, the off-leash dog chased and killed a mule deer buck in Quiqley Canyon. In Bellevue’s Muldoon Canyon, two off-leash dogs repeatedly chased deer in deep snow. Both of these incidents were reported to Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officers, who then investigated the reports and issued infraction citations.

In Idaho, it is illegal for an unleashed dog to actively track, pursue, harass or kill a big game animal. In the case of the killed mule deer, IDFG Regional Communications Manager Terry Thompson reports that witness reports were confirmed by a Fish and Game officer who found the deer and had determined it died from injuries from the dog attack.

The Wood River Valley is something of a dog haven, and many dog owners allow their dogs to run around off-leash. But the area is also home to many species of wildlife that face many stresses, particularly in the winter months, such as snow depths, ongoing cold temperatures, and the encroachment of human populations on their natural habitat.

The area’s large resident deer and elk population grows during the winter months, with migration patterns putting wildlife in areas where residential encroachment now occurs. “Deer and elk come into town because towns are now encroaching onto their traditional winter range, which leads to potential conflicts between people and wildlife,” said Thompson.

Thompson explains that several other factors are increasing the likelihood of wildlife–pet encounters. One is the large population of resident deer and elk living in the Wood River Valley year-round that have lost their natural migration instincts between summer and winter ranges, which results in a growing number of animals staying in the Wood River Valley.

“There is also an unintended consequence of resident deer and elk in our communities—and that can be seen by the number of reports that we receive about mountain lions living in or near our communities,” said Thompson. “Predators will follow the food source—and when the food doesn’t migrate, the predators don’t have to migrate either.”

The solution is ultimately to keep your dog on-leash, even if you don’t suspect wildlife to be nearby. Fish and Game officials ask that all people keep their dogs under control, even friendly dogs whose instincts may kick in when wildlife is around.

“The key to reducing these conflicts is for people to keep their dogs on-leash,” said Thompson. “The common thread is typically dogs off-leash with many of the wildlife conflicts occurring throughout the state, and more locally in the Wood River and Magic Valley areas.”

While this is only to be used as a last resort, Idaho code does state that any dog allowed to run at large and chase or harass big game animals can be lethally removed by law enforcement officers.

Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer Cody Smith said, “While we all may want to recreate with our dogs, everyone needs to do their part by not allowing their unleashed dogs to stress or kill wintering wildlife.”