The sheep are coming home! Recreationists should keep dogs on leash when encountering sheep
BOISE — (Oct. 26, 2011) — Domestic sheep are returning to the Boise Foothills from the high country in the Boise National Forest. In the next week, Wilder sheep rancher Frank Shirts said the sheep will be passing through the foothills on their way to a pickup spot on Bogus Basin Road, a couple of miles north of Boise.
Officials with the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission and Shirts remind recreationists to keep their dogs on leash when they encounter domestic sheep — even if they’re on a non-leash trail — so the dogs don’t chase sheep or get cross-wise with Great Pyrenees guard dogs.
Two bands of ewes numbering about 1,800 head each will graze their way down through the foothills. They will pass by popular trails such as Orchard Gulch, Watchman, Trail #5, Trail #4, Sidewinder, Hulls Gulch and Corrals Trail.
“The main thing is for people to keep their dogs on a leash,” Shirts said. “If a dog chases the sheep, my guard dogs are going to react to that threat, so it’d be great if people could keep their dogs on leash to avoid any conflicts.”
White Great Pyrenees guard dogs are used by ranchers as a non-lethal predator-control method to prevent coyotes and other predators from preying on domestic sheep. The dogs are used in place of old-style predator-control methods such as poisoning coyotes or aerial gunning. Each band of sheep is normally protected by two guard dogs. “The coyotes are thick in those foothills,” Shirts said. “The guard dogs are our only means of predator control.”
Gretchen Hyde, executive director of IRRC, said she appreciates that most recreation users in the Boise Foothills give the domestic sheep a wide berth to avoid conflicts during the short period in the spring and fall when the sheep move through. “We know that the sheep migration can be an inconvenience to recreationists, and we’re hoping that the tips we’re providing will allow everyone to enjoy their time in the outdoors without conflict.”
Mountain bikers should dismount from their bikes when they pass through a group of sheep to prevent a potential conflict with guard dogs, Shirts said. The guard dogs may charge mountain bikers or chase them, if riders pass through at a fast pace, he said.
“If you try to outrun a dog on your bike, the guard dog will think you’re trying to play a game with him, and he might chase you,” Shirts said. “If you get off your bike and walk, they won’t be threatened.”
The IRRC works together with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and recreation groups to tout an educational program called “Care and Share,” which encourages people to care for public lands and share them respectfully with others. Care and Share signs are posted at foothills trailheads to give recreationists tips about co-existing with domestic sheep.
Some other helpful reminders regarding the sheep migration include:
Be sure to close gates after you pass through. If you see horses or mules coming down a trail, pull off to the side of the trail and let the pack stock travel through. Horses and mules can spook easily when confronted by strangers. Consider using foothills trails where you are not likely to encounter domestic sheep — trails such as Polecat Gulch, Hillside to the Hollow trails, Seaman’s Gulch, Table Rock, and the Idaho Velopark in Eagle.For more information, contact Steve Stuebner at 208-484-0295 or Gretchen Hyde, IRRC, 208-866-2466.