With the arrival of winter snows in parts of central and eastern Washington, dog owners are urged to confine their pets to protect deer and elk.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) enforcement officers are receiving a growing number of reports of dogs chasing and harassing deer or elk.
Dog owners can be cited for allowing their dogs to chase deer or elk. The misdemeanor citation carries a $250 penalty. Although WDFW officers are authorized under state law to confiscate dogs that are chasing wild animals, they urge owners to restrain their pets to avoid such measures.
Wildlife biologists note that dogs instinctively pursue deer or elk, which are natural prey species for canines. Dogs can easily chase and even kill deer and elk in deep snow, especially when it has an ice crust. Dogs are able to race across the top of crusted snow, while deer and elk flounder when their sharp, heavy hooves punch through it.
The effort of the chase burns fat reserves that deer and elk need for winter survival. Some animals are chased to the point of exhaustion, which can lead to death in severe cold weather. Other chase-worn deer or elk are attacked by dogs, and may die slowly from their injuries.