by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer
Question: "I saw some dogs chasing elk in the deep snow. Is there anything I or you can do to protect the elk from these dogs?"
Answer: When we experience what I describe as a "more normal winter" and several feet of snow accumulates in many areas, big game animals become vulnerable to marauding domestic dogs. An already bad situation is made worse when a crust forms on the snow. This crust will occasionally support dogs but usually doesn't support the weight of game animals. This situation requires the animals to expend extra energy to escape domestic dogs.
One thing you can do is be a good witness. The "owner, possessor, or one who harbors any dog running at large and which is actively tracking, pursuing, harassing, or attacking, or which injures or kills deer or any other big game animal within this stateÉ" are in violation of Idaho law. In addition, many counties have ordinances that prohibit domestic dogs from "running at large."
You can take good notes, photographs, or video describing the dogs so they can be identified at a later time. You can also disrupt their hunt or pursuit of the game animals by scaring the dogs away. If you are able to capture the dogs, any collar information about the owners would also be helpful.
If conservation officers can identify the owner of the dogs we will issue them citations for allowing their dogs to harass big game animals. If you have the dogs captured, contact your local animal control officer in the sheriff's office or your local conservation officer.
To avoid costly legal and civil litigation with the dog's owner, I strongly urge the public to resist dispatching dogs chasing game animals.
Idaho law allows Department employees and other law enforcement officials to dispatch dogs chasing or killing big game animals without criminal or civil liability from the owner. As a matter of policy, Department employees go to great lengths to identify and locate the owners of the pets. Owners of dogs chasing game animals are issued Idaho infraction citations. Dogs at large continuing to chase wildlife or feral dogs without owners may be dispatched to avoid unnecessary injuries or winter losses to wildlife.
Reference Idaho Code 36-1101(b)6(B) and 36-1101(b)6(C).
If you have any further questions you may call the Magic Valley Regional Office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208)324-4350 or e-mail us at the Fish and Game web site at http://fishandgame.Idaho.gov.