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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife is issuing a warning after two separate incidents where dogs mortally wounded deer in Jefferson County.

CPW said one of the incidents happened near Evergreen on Oct. 20. The dog owner was cited for both illegal take of the deer ($959) and for negligently allowing their dog to harass wildlife ($274).

The second incident also involved a dog mortally wounding a deer, but that dog and its owner have not been identified.

“A lot of owners don’t think that my dog can do this. Most dogs do have that predator-prey instinct in them,” said Jason Clay with CPW.

If your dog is chasing wildlife, it is illegal and you may be cited for it, according to CPW.

CPW said whether it is your dog attacking wildlife, or a dog chasing wildlife, both actions are illegal and carry hefty fines.

“People may forget that their pet dog is a predator and they can injure and kill wildlife if not properly controlled,” said Wildlife Officer Joe Nicholson. “Dog owners are liable for the damage they cause to wildlife.”

What are the fines?

CPW said dog owners can be cited for negligently allowing their dog to harass wildlife, which carries a $274 fine, including surcharges.

If a dog attack leads to the death of wildlife, the owner can be cited for illegal take.

The fine associated with the illegal take would be $959 for deer and $1,370 for elk, including surcharges.

Between 2010 and 2019, CPW issued 139 citations for harassing wildlife. Clay said most times CPW learned about cases from members of the public who reported it.

This week’s warning is even more pressing as winter approaches and wildlife animals will work to preserve vital energy to get through the season. Clay pointed out a conflict with a dog could place unnecessary stress on the wildlife animal and in turn do unnecessary harm.

Why is it so dangerous?

If your dog chases or harasses wild animals, CPW said it’s a serious concern any time of year, especially during the winter when the consequences become more harmful for many big game animals.

“By winter, deer and elk are just trying to survive the snow and lack of forage,” Nicholson said. “If dogs chase them, they quickly expend their already limited fat stores, leading to poor health and eventual death from starvation. That is what we are trying to prevent.”

Wildlife managers say that although it may be legal to let dogs run free in some recreation areas, they strongly recommend keeping pets on a leash whenever encounters with animals are likely.

“The stress and injuries caused by dogs are concerns, but so are conflicts,” said Area Wildlife Manager Mark Lamb. “Each year, we investigate numerous incidents in which a person is injured by a wild animal. A common factor in many of these situations is that the victim’s dog first approached or harassed the animal.”

Lamb said that moose see dogs as a predatory threat and they can aggressively try to stomp any dog that approaches, often chasing it back to its owner who then becomes the target of the angry moose.

CPW said there have been at least four moose attacks this year in Colorado – three of which had dogs involved – that resulted in injuries to humans.

Other wildlife that pose a threat to your dog:

Wildlife officials also warn that mountain lions, bears or coyotes can easily make a meal of a dog.

“Predators do not differentiate between their natural prey and a dog,” said Lamb. “You don’t want to be in a situation where you watch your pet being eaten. The best way to keep this from occurring is to either keep the pet close to you on a short leash, or leave it at home if you are heading to an area where you might encounter wildlife.”

According to Clay, the rules exist to protect the pet and its owners as well.

“Dogs are a big source of conflict with wildlife and result in a number of injuries to humans because they spark that conflict,” Clay said.

According to Clay, three of the four moose attacks this year in Colorado involved dogs as instigators.

CPW said that in addition to keeping your dog on a leash or at home, there are other suggestions for viewing and enjoying wildlife in a safe and ethical manner.

“Watch wild animals from a distance with binoculars, a camera lens or a spotting scope,” Lamb said. “Remember, if the animal reacts to you or your dog, you are definitely too close.”

To report any instance of dogs chasing wildlife, the public can call their local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office or Colorado State Patrol.

CPW’s Denver office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and can be reached at 303-291-7227.