600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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November 27, 1996
Contact: Madonna Luers, 509-456-4073

Confine dogs to protect deer, elk

Severe winter weather conditions throughout much of the state have Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials urging that dogs be confined to protect deer and elk.

WDFW enforcement officers are receiving a growing number of reports about dogs chasing and harassing deer or elk.

Dogs can easily chase and even kill deer and elk over deep snow, especially when it has an ice crust. Dogs race across the top of crusted snow on their big paws, while deer and elk flounder when their sharp, heavy hooves punch through it.

Wildlife biologists say dogs instinctively pursue deer or elk, which are natural prey species for canines.

The chase itself drains precious fat reserves needed by deer and elk for winter survival. Some are chased to the point of exhaustion, which can lead to death in severe conditions. Other chase-worn deer or elk are attacked by dogs. The elk and deer die slowly and painfully.

Dog owners can be cited for violating state law which prohibits allowing dogs to chase deer or elk. The misdemeanor citations carry a minimum $152 fine.

The department, which has authority to confiscate or destroy dogs chasing wild animals, hopes dog owners will restrain their pets.