Re-Leash the Hounds!

That leash of yours is an instrument of environmental conservation.

In the face of expanding urban areas, an ever-growing population, and all of the impending effects of climate change, it’s easy to feel powerless when it comes to preserving Colorado’s environment. 

Nature and undeveloped places are under a lot of pressure, after all, from a lot of angles both natural and manmade—as are all of the inhabitants of those wild areas: the birds, the bees, the fish, the mammals. Even the trees are under assault from beetles. 

But conservation starts small. Helping preserve that delicate natural balance, is as easy as keeping your best bud and canid-in-crime close at hand. Because, while they might be our best friends, Colorado’s canine citizens are one of our wildlife’s greatest enemies. 

None of us want to admit it, but it’s true. We all love dogs. There’s got to be at least as many of them as there are people in Colorado. But Lassie and friends are by their very nature a bunch of trouble making ruffians when they’re un-leashed in the fragile balance of the state’s fragile, natural habitats. 

According to the Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Resources, un-leashed dogs venture about five meters on average from the trails they’re allowed on when they’re off leash, and can range up to 85 meters away. And unsupervised dogs do not follow the rules of Leave No Trace.

The study shows that unleashed dogs disturb animals at pretty much every level of the ecosystem: ground nesting birds, small mammals, prairie dogs, bobcats, and mule deer. In Durango, one dog actually chased an entire herd of elk into the Animas River. Unfortunately, these types of incidents are not uncommon. 

It’s just dogs being dogs, though. It’s in their nature. What should we expect? 

The lives of those elk and other wild animals are not easy, and they depend on every modicum of fat and energy they have stored. Their days are spent scouring the wilderness for calories, trying to preserve their vitality at every possible moment. They are constantly fighting starvation, dealing with freezing conditions, disease, predators, and everything else. Playful pooches can be problematic under these conditions.

So being chased into a frigid river by a happy-go-lucky pup can become a matter of life and death. Being woken early from the great slumber of hibernation can be a fatal ordeal. Having your nest disturbed during a season of scarcity can mean that your lineage ends with you. 

That’s heavy. But it’s a delicate balance out there, an equilibrium perfected over millennia. It doesn’t take much to throw that out of whack. 

By keeping your dog leashed and close by in nature, you can be sure that your best friend isn’t sticking its snout into other animals’ business. You can do your part to help preserve Colorado’s environment. That leash is a tool. It’s an instrument for conservation and an easy way to help maintain the natural world we all love and enjoy so much. It’s a simple step with a big environmental payoff. 

Does that infringe upon our canine-American friends’ rights? Is it a violation of nature to keep dogs always-tethered? One could make the argument that yes, it does; and yes, it is. But what’s at stake? The population of Colorado is escalating at an unprecedented rate, and the populations of dogs is rising with it. That is putting a burden on the ecosystems of this state—and it’s a problem that isn’t hard to get a handle on. 

You and your dog can help keep Colorado’s wilds areas wild. It starts small and it starts simply with a leash.

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