Following a rash of dog bites on the Teton Canyon trail, officials have banned dogs in a separate trail system in Teton County, Idaho.
Over the weekend of Jan. 18 and 19, several people were bitten at the Teton Canyon trailhead, the most heavily trafficked on the western side of the mountains. Owners are required to keep dogs on leash within 200 yards of a trailhead, but some disobey the regulation.
“We are seeing an increase in irresponsible pet ownership at our winter trailheads,” Jay Pence, Teton Basin district ranger for Caribou-Targhee National Forest, said in a news release. “Due to increased user conflicts and the rising number of complaints we are going to increase enforcement efforts.”
In the winter, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that fewer areas are accessible. As people congregate at a handful of popular, groomed trails, “this high volume leads to more frequent interactions between dogs, families and wildlife and a negative experience for many users on trails,” said Amy Moore, executive director of PAWS, in the release.
She said the most common complaints center on uncontrolled dogs, dogs harassing wildlife, and owners failing to clean up after their dogs.
To prevent a similar situation at the relatively new South Valley Trail System — including the Yeti’s Loop, Lady Slipper and Nemo trails, all of which have only been groomed since 2018 — Pence said they will close the area to dogs from Dec. 1 to April 15.
“Since it’s a new trail system,” he said, “we’re not taking anything away from anyone.”
Forest officials considered doing the same at Teton Canyon, the offending trail, but “we chose not to go there,” Pence said. Rather than shut down the longstanding dog-friendly area, they opted to focus on holding owners accountable.
Pence has already begun stopping by the trailhead on the weekends. He talked to more than 100 people this Saturday and Sunday, including one woman who he said didn’t have her dog on leash and was unable to get control of it for 20 minutes.
That number of users multiplied across an entire winter adds up. According to Teton Valley Trails and Pathways, the 2018-2019 season drew about 11,000 people to the Teton Canyon trail alone.
“We are happy to support multiple use on our local trail systems,” Dan Verbeten, Teton Valley Trails and Pathways director, said in the news release. “However, the trend of use has increased dramatically over the years and the increased use has resulted in more conflicts with humans and dogs.”
Besides complaints about the Teton Canyon trail, Pence said he has also received complaints about the popular sledding hill at the trailhead near the Mike Harris campground, where some owners have neglected to pick up their dogs’ waste.
“It’s hard not to be sympathetic to a parent whose child has fallen into, or slid through, a surprise left by someone’s dog in the snow,” Pence said.
In addition to the leash restriction within 200 yards of a trailhead, the U.S. Forest Service also requires that dogs be under voice control at all times on national forest anywhere in the country.