The National Park Service reports that off-leash dogs have killed at least three deer in the last week as witnessed by park staff and visitors. And they have a stern warning for dog owners allowing their pets to go off leash in the parks.
The first attack occurred on Friday, December 2, near the entrance road to Great Falls at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. In that case, staff members were able to chase the dogs away, but the deer was left exhausted.
The second attack occurred on Friday, December 9th, when the dogs chased a deer into a stream. Park staff pulled the deer out of the stream, but had to put it down because of its injuries.
One of the dogs, a Scottie mix, was caught and handed over to Montgomery County Animal Control. The other dog, a 40-50 lb. Airedale Terrier, ran away.
Less than an hour later, the terrier was spotted chasing a third deer into the flooded Potomac, just one hundred yards upstream of the falls.
The dog, which has a pink collar, is still at large.
C&O Canal park staff say problems have been increasing in recent years because of dogs off leash, including people being bitten, dog fights, lost dogs, and other wildlife harassment incidents.
"This is the first time we've had wildlife issues," said Park Ranger Aly Baltrus.
Experts say dogs have a natural desire to chase. But recent incidents are different Baltrus said.
They are asking visitors to help keep people safe and to protect park resources by adhering to leash laws and reporting violators to park staff.
Regulations state that dogs must be on a six-foot or shorter leash and under full control of an owner while in the park. Owners can be charged $50 per dog plus a $25 fee for dogs off leash and with any class B violation, the maximum penalty is 6 months in jail and $1000 fine.
Finally, the park service is warning that dogs harassing wildlife animals may be put down on site.
To report dogs off leash please call 866-677-6677.