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Ranchers Say Leave The Dogs Alone

September 2, 2020

Idaho sheep ranchers are asking the general public, “Leave our dogs alone.”

Several working dogs have been “rescued” by well-meaning hikers or campers in Idaho, recently, who believe the dogs to be lost or abandoned. Enough of the incidents have occurred that southern Idaho officials issued a press release Monday urging the public to leave the dogs alone.

Sheep ranchers and the U.S. Forest Service say the dogs are expensive livestock guardians – often large white Great Pyrenees – that spend the summer on ranges with flocks of sheep. The dogs are there to protect livestock from predators like coyotes, mountain lions, black bears and wolves.Gretchen Hyde, general manager of the Idaho Rangeland Resources Commission, told Drovers the incidents involving guard dogs is increasing because of the increase in use of public lands by the general public. More visitors to Idaho’s vast and scenic natural resources means more people unfamiliar with livestock and the dogs’ purpose is common. Removing the guard dogs can be harmful, similar to removing an orphaned fawn from its mother.

Corey Peavey, a Blaine County, ID, sheep rancher, told the, “I realize that everybody has their own best intentions, but you shouldn’t be taking a guard dog out of its environment, bringing it home, causing undue stress, and exposing it to unnecessary domestication.” Peavey has had his dogs hauled away to an animal shelter by mistake.

“Out of respect for the dog and the rancher, it’s better to leave them where they are,” Peavey said. “Even if they might look lost, they know the way.”

John Noh with Noh Sheep Company in Kimberly, ID, has had his guard dogs picked up by people who thought the dog was lost, and they ended up at a shelter in the Wood River Valley, forcing Noh to spend hours of down time to go fetch the dog and return it to his sheep flocks, reports

“These are working dogs that ranchers rely on to non-lethally protect their sheep from predators,” Noh says. “For people to take these animals out of the woods that ranchers have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars feeding and training is wrong.”

Renee Kehler, range conservationist for the Sawtooth National Forest, said there have been a number of guard dogs picked up by people thinking they were lost or needed attention. “It’s been happening a lot lately,” Kehler says. “Please treat them like livestock and leave them alone.”

Often livestock guard dogs have a collar with a name and phone number on them. If they have questions, they also could call those numbers to see if the dog is lost. “For me,” said Peavey, “I’d appreciate a phone call over taking my dog.”

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