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SALT LAKE CITY — As spring approaches, more people are likely to participate in outdoor recreation.  The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has reminded people who take their pets along to ensure they don’t harass wildlife. 

According to the DWR, deep winter snow often makes it difficult for Utah’s larger wildlife to find food. As spring arrives, they often grow weak or enter survival mode. 

Dogs that are out with their people may act on their instinct to chase animals they encounter. 

“If they get chased — especially if it happens again and again — it uses up energy they may need to survive those sensitive times of [the]year,” DWR Big Game Coordinator Dax Mangus wrote in a statement. 

Mangus explained that large animals, such as deer, use fat storage to survive. Often, their fat reserves have been depleted by this time of year, so they need to conserve as much energy as possible to survive. 

Additionally, the large animals typically move into lower elevations during the cold months, making encounters more likely. 

Although this winter has been milder, they can still be vulnerable. 

Keep pets secured for their safety

According to the DWR, pets are allowed in all national forests. However, it should be noted they are not permitted in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. They are watershed areas.

The DWR said that dogs should be kept on a leash that is no longer than 6 feet while they are in developed recreation areas, such as campsites. 

Some hiking trails require dogs to be leashed on some or all days. Others do not. 

For example, in Millcreek Canyon, dogs must be on a leash during even-numbered days. On odd-numbered days, they may be off-leash while on trails, per Salt Lake County

While most of the other areas in national forests do not require dogs to be on leash, they must be under the control of their person at all times. 

Keeping pets in control can protect them and the wildlife they may encounter. 

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

The DWR included additional pet safety tips from Wild Aware Utah

What Wild Aware Utah says about pets around wildlife: 

Firstly, the organization said it is important to be aware of your surroundings. If you find an animal carcass, leave it alone. Vacate the area. It could have been killed by a cougar that might still be guarding it. 

Avoid thick vegetation and den sites. Do not let pets enter dens, chase, or harass wildlife. Remember that moose can be particularly aggressive toward dogs. 

Secondly, make noise while you hike. According to the National Park Service, your sounds can alert wildlife that you are in the area. 

Thirdly, if you encounter wildlife, remain calm. Pick up smaller dogs. 

You should adopt the appropriate behaviors and leave the area. 

For example, if you see a cougar, the DWR said to speak loudly and firmly. Slowly back away as you leave the area. 

The DWR website also provides tips on managing a bear encounter

Finally, if you encounter aggressive wildlife, alert the nearest DWR office or the local police department. They will reach out to a conservation officer who can handle the situation. 

Related: Four deer illegally killed, beheaded; DWR asking for help with investigation

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