Katchina Daisy

The Cedar Mesa Project

Dogs and the Wilderness

Return to The Cedar Mesa Project Home Page.

"The plain fact that my dog loves me more than I love him is undeniable and always fills me with a certain feeling of shame. The dog is every ready to lay down his life for me. If a lion or a tiger threatened me, Ali, Bully, Tito, Stasi and all the others would, without a moment's hesitation, have plunged into the hopeless fight to protect my life if only for a few seconds."
Lorenz, Konrad, Man Meets DogKodansha International, 1958, p 151.

The pleasure of being in the country with a dog can be the highest of pleasures. Dogs protect us. They warn us of danger, they are loyal. and dogs are known as "Man's best friend." Are the canyons of southeastern Utah the appropriate wilderness areas to take a dog?

I have seen excited and nervous dogs neither on a leash nor under voice control of their owners climb up on the walls of Anasazi ruins and knock out chunks of mortar. More than once, a dog's bark has echoed back and forth from the canyon walls and has broken my solitude. Their scratch marks bear witness to their scrambling up the steep faces of sandstone slickrock, using their nails for traction and leaving marks on ancient pectoglyphs. Dogs have chased deer in my presence and left them panting and exhausted, spent.

I have seen dogs urinate on ancient Puebloan walls which hastens deterioration of these ancient structures. I have stepped in dog poop in places I didn't want it or expect it to be.

As an example of inappropriate dog behavior, one of our beloved dogs was so delighted to find a small water source in the canyon, that he first urinated in it, then lay down in the middle of it, contaminating the one water source for miles around. Since that time, we have left our dogs at home when we travel to the canyons.

On a long hike, our dog suffered from dehydration and needed all of our remaining water to make it back to camp. We had miscalculated how much he would drink on the long, dusty hike. Another time, a dog hurt his leg jumping down from a ledge and needed to be carried in our arms for miles up the side of the canyon. Dogs contract giardia from eating animal feces. They are good carriers of the parasite and spread it, contaminating water sources when they defecate.

Do dogs belong in the canyons? There are differing points of view. It is important to think of the consequences of all of our decisions on everyone - including the dogs. One thing is certain, however, dogs need to be kept out of precious water sources and out of archaeological sites, and also be kept under voice control at all times.

Be aware that the number of complaints about dogs is increasing - to the extent that the BLM is seriously considering banning dogs from all Cedar Mesa canyons, including Grand Gulch. How well dogs are managed in the canyons in the near future will have a direct impact on whether the privilege of taking your dog into the canyons will continue.

To that end, a review of the regulations in this area is in order -

Return to Cedar Mesa home page.

URL of this page: http://bcn.boulder.co.us/environment/cacv/cacvdogs.htm
Revised '9-Jun-2001,11:10:14'
Copyright ©1996, 1999 SCCS.