Joshua Tree National Park, California: Dogs are not allowed off leash or unaccompanied in Joshua Tree National Park. In Joshua Tree, dogs are confined to roads and campgrounds and may not go on trails or into the backcountry. These restrictions are commonly found at almost all National Parks and across the board in most other parks, with a few exceptions. These restrictions are nothing new, since the National Park Service has had dog restrictions since the 1920s and 1930s.
Joshua Tree National Park has its share of impacts associated with unrestrained dogs. In 2002 dogs from the local community attacked and killed bighorn sheep and desert tortoises have been found with chew marks on them from. Even if a dog is on leash it can still have an impact on wildlife, due to their threatening presence. Wildlife is use to fleeing or being put on alert when a member of the canine family is in the area. According to the National Park Service, wildlife will become use to a human or horse being present in its’ territory, but not a dog. Wildlife are especially vulnerable during mating season, when they are with their young, harsh environmental conditions, and when in rut.
According to R.A. MacArthur et al. (1999), which studied how bighorn sheep reacted to a human approaching them from a roadside, a ridge, and with a dog from the road indicated that the presence of a dog resulted in the most significant reaction from the sheep. Fleeing and milling where strongest in the presence of the dog. In Dr. Steve Herrero’s study titled, Bear Attack, the presence of a dog near a female bear and her cub increased the likely hood of an attack to the dog and the dog owner. Dogs not only pose a threat to wildlife, but also other domesticated animals. The National Parks service has certain areas where horses are allowed for both visitors use and use by either the park or the concessioners using it. The presence of an unpredictable dog can spook horses leading to injury to potentially the rider, horse, the dog, and the owner. Not to mention that even humans don’t always like dogs and can be scared when they are confronted with a dog that they are either not expecting or is not on leash.
As sweet and as lovable as some dogs can be, their owners can be the exception. Unfortunately, even if there are rules and regulations in place by the land management agency, that is no guarantee that people will always follow the policies. In a study done by the Angeles National Forest in California, researches found that even on trails where dogs are allowed if they are leashed, 90% of the dogs were off leash. Dog waste is another issue were dog owners ignore the rules and regulations. On the popular Sanitas Valley Trail in Boulder, Colorado, 1,492 piles of dog feces were found in one month despite the rule to pick up after your pet.
Last but definitely not least, dogs can transmit diseases to wildlife and people through their waste if it is not properly disposed of. Parvovirus is not only present in domesticated dogs, but can be transmitted to other canines as well. In Glacier National Park, Montana, parvovirus was spread from dogs to wolf-pup populations leading to death amongst the wolves.
Thanks for reading and remember to be like Bigfoot and Leave No Trace!
Pat and TJ
Leave No Trace’s Patrick and Theresa Beezley are part of the 2015 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Coleman, Hi-Cone, and Smartwool.
Tom Chester “Effects of Dogs on Wildlife, 2003.