Learning the leash lesson | VailDaily.com

Learning the leash lesson

Scott Condon

The owner of a dog that killed a deer in Carbondale this winter is urging dog owners to use a leash, regardless of how well they think they know their pets.

Nan Sundeen said she learned the hard way how unpredictable dogs can be during encounters with wildlife. Her boxer/shepherd mix chased a herd of deer up an area hillside in late December. When her pet returned, it chased and mauled a yearling buck that became separated from the herd.

Sundeen eventually got her dog off the deer, took it home and reported the incident to police. She guided a cop to the deer. He determined its injuries were severe enough that he had to shoot it.

Sundeen said she never would have imagined that her dog could act that way. It’s great around kids and other people, she said, and playful with other canines. But the typically gentle dog became deadly around wildlife.

Sundeen’s story is a common one, said Colorado Division of Wildlife Officer Justin Martens.

“She felt bad about it and said she didn’t think her dog would do that,” said Martens. “That’s the problem. They don’t think their dog would do it, but they do.”

The Carbondale incident was one of two known fatal dog attacks on big game in the Roaring Fork Valley this winter. The second occurred earlier this spring when two huskies mauled an elk on Shadow Mountain, just outside of Aspen. Wildlife officers shot and killed the dogs when they persisted in attacking the elk.

Sundeen’s dog wasn’t killed because it wasn’t caught in the act. Sundeen was ticketed by Martens for allowing her dog to harass wildlife. She paid a $274 fine.

He also ticketed her for taking a deer out of season, which carried a $1,000 fine. Martens advised the district attorney to drop that charge, since Sundeen was cooperative and remorseful. He recommended to both Sundeen and the district attorney that she make a contribution to a wildlife rehabilitation center in Silt in lieu of the stiff fine.

A Garfield County judge said the payment to the rehabilitation center wasn’t necessary, according to Sundeen. She didn’t make a voluntary contribution, but she said her family has altered its dog-walking practices. Their dog remains on a leash when they’re off their property. An invisible fence secures their dog in the yard.

Sundeen said she is “remorseful and regretful” about the incident and would strongly advocate that people always keep their dogs on a leash whenever wildlife encounters are possible. Having a dog on voice command isn’t enough.

“If I can get anything across, it’s that it can happen at any time to anybody,” she said.

Support Local Journalism