Vail Valley man aims to make trails safer
Vail Valley, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – When a hunter shot Dave Perron’s dog last year during a hike in West Lake Creek in Colorado’s Vail Valley, Perron was crushed.
“I was absolutely devastated,” he said. “He was my best friend.”
Now, the Edwards resident wants to prevent what happened to his Chocolate lab, Crowley, from happening to other pets.
“I want to make hunters aware these are mulit-use areas and also for hikers to be aware of that,” he said.
Perron used $200 in local donations and $500 from the Safari Club International Colorado chapter to make 13 signs for trailheads.
The signs read: “Attention/This is a multi-use area/Hikers please use caution during hunting season./ Hunters know your target!/You will be prosecuted!”
With bear hunting season set to begin Wednesday, and archery season for elk and deer underway, Perron wants to make sure people take precautions on local trails.
Sam Massman, a wilderness manager for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District in Minturn, said he expects the signs to appear within the next few weeks. He anticipates the signs will go up at the bottom of West Lake Creek Road, a popular dog-walking area, and the East Lake Creek trailhead.
If hikers are worried about hunters mistaking their dogs for targets, they can take precautions, he said.
“Smart things for people to do would be to get their dogs one of those little orange vests you can buy at the pet store, or maybe even some orange flagging,” Massman said.
He also suggests hikers wear orange clothes during hunting season.
When people take their dogs into wilderness areas, rules require them to put pets on a leash, he said. If they don’t, they can face a $125 fine from the forest service.
“We have that regulation in the wilderness area to protect dogs from going after animals, but also to keep dogs from messing with other people’s experiences,” he said.
Incidents like what happened with Crowley are exceptionally rare, said Randy Hampton, a spokesman with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Perron’s dog was killed by an out-of-state hunter from Wisconsin, while hiking with Perron’s roommate in West Lake Creek. The hunter told officials he feared for his life when he shot the dog. Perron and the hunter reached a settlement and the charges against the hunter were dropped.
When Safari club board member Bruce Hutcheon read about what happened to Crowley, he wanted to get involved with educating the public about being safe around trails.
“From a hunter’s point of view, I hope people would go, ‘OK, there are people and dogs out here, people hiking, other people using this resource, so let’s either not be in the same place at the same time or if we are, then be darn well sure what you’re shooting at, which is a tenant of hunting anyway.”
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