Written by Grant Barnard for the BRTA newsletter. Used with permission.
A touchy subject, dogs on trails. Some areas are heavily used by dogs, (like the West Fork Road) and it can become messy… or not. There is a volunteer bag station and trash can at the parking area there; lots of folks are using it and picking up after their dogs, making the area noticeably cleaner. Bring empty plastic bags to recycle in the dispenser.
Another issue with dogs on trails is harassing and even attacking other trail users or wildlife. This is unacceptable and has a couple of possible solutions: owners train and control their dogs, or agencies create rules against these behaviors. It is illegal for dogs to harass wildlife. Dogs are required to be leashed at Forest Service trail head parking areas. And dogs are not allowed on the new Palisades Trail Dec. 1 to July 1 (for protection of wildlife). As dog trainer Nancy Tanner says, “trails are not dog parks… on the trail with your dog… you are taking a predator for a walk in the wild.”
Another potential problem for dogs and owners on winter trails is trapping. It is traditional and legal to trap fur-bearing mammals in most of the northern Rocky Mountains. In Montana, trapping is governed by the state Fish & Wildlife Department. On state and federal lands, traps are required to be set back fifty feet from trails and roads, 300 feet from trail heads, and 1,000 feet from camp grounds. In some high use recreation areas, traps must be set back 500 feet from trails. No trails in the Red Lodge area are designated “high recreational use,” thus the 50 foot set back rule applies to trails here.
How to release your dog from a trap
Go to www.fwp.mt.gov home page, click hunting, click trapping and near the bottom is an eight minute video showing how to open a trap to release your dog should it be caught in a trap. You can also follow this direct link to the video on YouTube.
Do not park on a county road when accessing a trailhead for an outing. It is illegal to impair traffic on roads, and most county roads are too narrow to accommodate a parked vehicle (it can hinder plowing and can be a real problem for passing vehicles like farm trucks loaded with hay or pulling big trailers). Know where the boundaries are where county roads change to Forest Service roads. Note that the Forest Service does not plow Forest Service roads