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  • Writer's pictureSLV Pet Care LLC

Watching Wildlife with Your Dog

The San Luis Valley not only has the majestic views of two mountain ranges, but also an incredibly diverse amount of birds and other wildlife. While the valley is most popular for birding (especially spring and fall migrations of the Sandhill Crane), it also has an abundance of mammals that you can easily find on any of the local trails. Here are some tips for viewing wildlife while walking or hiking with your dog:

Photo by Julie Reisinger
American bittern at the Oxbow

Keep your dog leashed: All Alamosa trails require dogs (and potbelly pigs) to be on a leash. Most state and national parks also require this. Not only is it the law, but your dog could be at risk of getting injured by a wild animal. In addition, your dog can disrupt nesting/hibernating animals and destroy habitats, and will likely cause most animals to go into hiding or fly/swim away.

Keep quiet: Most animals will shy away from noises, so keep yourself and your dog quiet. If Sparky likes to bark at birds and rodents, it’s probably best to leave him at home. ***Please remember that if you are hiking in bear territory, you should abide by all safety requirements posted at the trails, including wearing bear bells. Your wildlife adventure shouldn’t end in tragedy!

Know when wildlife is active: If there is a specific species you want to see, do a little research to find out when it is most active. Most animals are more active at dawn and dusk, but some you can see throughout the day (deer, songbirds, etc.).

American kestrel with lunch at the Riparian Park

Don’t harass, feed, or approach wildlife: Dogs can (and will) be injured by animals protecting themselves or their young, and people are no exception. Feeding wildlife can not only be bad for the health of the animal, but may cause them to become less fearful towards humans.

Know where wildlife is located: Again, research the animals you’d like to see. For example, you wouldn’t expect to find many birds of prey in the middle of treeless pasture land, but you can probably find a large variety of rodents (ground squirrels, prairie dogs, etc.). Wildlife and birding books specific to the region you are in are useful tools for this, especially if written by a local author. The Narrow Gauge Book Cooperative in Alamosa is a great resource for regional books by local authors.

Porcupine at the Oxbow

Be patient: During large migrations and mating seasons, it can be really easy to spot animals, especially birds. However, some animals are very shy, whether or not it is mating season, and you may need to wait in one spot for extended periods of time. Also, many animals have pretty amazing camouflage, so it may take more time for you to actually notice them.

Be aware: Not only about what you and your dog are doing, but about what is going on around you. Make sure you are packing out whatever you pack in, and pick up after your dog - this isn’t just common courtesy, but your dog can potentially spread diseases to wildlife even if he/she appears healthy. You should also be aware of potentially dangerous situations, such as when you are entering bear/coyote/mountain lion territory, or when it is rutting/fawning/calving season for deer and elk, as these animals may become aggressive during these times.

You should also make sure to keep yourself and dog safe by following basic hiking safety guidelines, which you can find on our blog.

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All photos by Julie Reisinger


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