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  1. #1
    bikexor
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    Caution;  Merge;  Workers Ahead! Sheep Guard Dogs and Mountain Bikers

    I work in Glenwood and recently attended the annual "AgDay" in New Castle. One of the presentations was put on by a family of sheep ranchers who use guard dogs to protect their flocks while grazing on USFS/BLM land. Apparently mountain bikers and other public land users have had encounters with the sheep guard dogs and they are trying to educate everyone so problems can be limited.

    The dogs have been bred for centuries in Eurasia specifically to tend flocks of sheep. They protect the herds from predators usually by "barking and chasing". While people on foot are not commonly mistaken for predators; a fast-moving, relatively silent mountain biker shooting out of the bushes will startle the sheep and the dogs. I scanned the tri-fold flyer they passed out (sorry for poor quality) and it does have some useful information about how to act when approaching to dogs or sheep. They brought in two of their guard dogs and apart from being enormous they are no different or less friendly towards people than any other dog. However, when they are tending a band of sheep their behavior can change. They do view domestic dogs as predators as well so be advised that problems could occur with unleashed dogs.

    I just wanted to pass this information to everyone who rides around here. We're lucky to be able to share the land with all types of users and if we keep problems to a minimum we should all be able to enjoy the area for many years to come.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Sheep Guard Dogs and Mountain Bikers-sheepdogs1.jpg  

    Sheep Guard Dogs and Mountain Bikers-sheepdogs2.jpg  

    Last edited by derockus; 02-01-2010 at 03:13 PM.
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  2. #2
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    This post is informative and folks need to know about the sheep herders for their safety and the safety of their animals or children.

    Quote Originally Posted by derockus
    They do view domestic dogs as predators as well so be advised that problems could occur with unleashed dogs.
    However, this is a huge understatement....they will kill other dogs....and I know of that happening on a couple occasions...

    It's awesome that they put such a positive spin on what they do...It didn't mention anything in there about how they have this apparently wild beast out roaming the countryside...hell it might as well be a mountain lion...

    Reminds me of that SNL sketch about Happy Fun Ball...

    I for one feel even more safe out on our USFS land now....
    Last edited by The SS Boz; 01-27-2010 at 05:10 PM.
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  3. #3
    namagomi
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    A nice propaganda flyer, too bad the animals have proven they are extremely dangerous around other people and their pets. I've heard of various attacks including a horrific one on a young female mountain biker.

    I like the cute doggy pictures - Cougars look cute too you know, that is until they are chasing you through the forest trying to eat your ass, then your views on wild cougars and wildlife conservation might change instantly.

    If Americans have the right to bear arms in self defense then bikers in sheep country should arm themselves because you will be at the mercy of a pack of wild sheep dogs trying to kill you if you are unarmed.

  4. #4
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    There are typically only two dogs to each group of sheep, and they don't typically bother you unless you approach them in a confrontational manner.

    I've spent a lot of time guiding/camping near Camp Hale (with my Bernese Mtn. Dog), within direct vicinity of the so-called "problem dogs," which are also the dogs who attacked the female mountain biker. I've never had any problems with the dogs, and have come across them on numerous occasions.

    It's important to realize these dogs and the sheep herds have been grazing on the land for decades - way before mountain bikers existed. They are also very large Great Pyrenees, so it doesn't take a genius to stay away. If there are sheep around, you should just know someone, or something is watching them.

    I guess living in the mountains, I've always known they existed - so I wouldn't call this flyer propaganda - I'd call it adapting to different users of the land.

  5. #5
    namagomi
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    Yeah it is propaganda... trying to bill out the dogs as safe and predictable, which they aren't and have proven they aren't on multiple occasions.

    Farmers have a responsibility to share the land safely. IT is public land after all, right?

  6. #6
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    I was almost attacked by three of these dogs a couple of years ago in Sun Valley, Idaho. I had just as much right to pass through the public forest as the sheep rancher. I empathize with the fact that it is becoming more and more difficult for the ranching families to continue their way of life due to increased traffic in once solitary areas and increased fees for grazing permits. However, the world continues to spin and the reality is that more and more people are seeking out national forest lands for recreation and relaxation. If I would have been attacked, the rancher (or herder) would have been negligent in failing to properly control their dogs. They claim the guard dogs are the only economical way to protect their flocks. Well, they need to hire someone to camp with the sheep and dogs, and if they can't afford that then they need to close up shop.

    The brochure posted by the OP is probably a direct propaganda response to the Eagle woman who was attacked and then successfully prosecuted the sheep herder who refused to address any of her concerns or medical bills.

    Also, when I was almost attacked there was no signage at the trail head indicating grazing sheep.

    Next summer, I'm carrying pepper spray and a knife.

    If I or the attacked woman were trespassing on priviate property, this would be different. But we were both legally traveling through public lands. The herders need to be held accountable for their negligence.

    Here's a couple articles I googled:
    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articl...ck1127-ON.html

    http://www.vaildaily.com/article/200...09931/-1/rss01

  7. #7
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    Jra

    I was out for a spin on the road bike this week and I had a fenced in field of sheep to my right. Then there is a right turn along another fenced in side of the same field of sheep. About at the corner is where I saw the dog coming...fast. Faster than what I was traveling. Figuring the dog might stop at the fence was the wrong thing to figure. So I now have a training partner for the next 1/2 mile when he or she finally decided to break it off. The dog could have ate me from the onset, I just kept my head down, tried to ignore the barking right off my back tire and just hope that the dog is happy with the speed at which I am exiting his area.

    I don't think it hurts anything for them to get the info out there but I agree with SS Boz, it has that Happy Fun Ball twist to it.

  8. #8
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    canyons says;
    "I empathize with the fact that it is becoming more and more difficult for the ranching families to continue their way of life due to increased traffic in once solitary areas and increased fees for grazing permits..... They claim the guard dogs are the only economical way to protect their flocks. Well, they need to hire someone to camp with the sheep and dogs, and if they can't afford that then they need to close up shop."

    Hard to see how you empathize with the ranchers when you tell them to give up their way of life and means of support so you can play in the woods.

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    I have a lot of respect for these work animals and other protection dogs. I understand it takes a lot of training by the handlers / owners to effectively train these animals and channel their prey drive and natural behavior into trained behaviors for work, or protection.

    The owners need to remember they are responsible to care for these animals and ensure outly aggressive behavior is curbed. Any dog will revert to poor behavior when it's left too long to its own ways.

    I've had numerous encounters with them on public land and public roads as well, like others above. Hopefully, future encounters are all respectful ones. I always respect the animal first, since they are fearful of me and guarding the flock.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirthound
    I have a lot of respect for these work animals and other protection dogs. I understand it takes a lot of training by the handlers / owners to effectively train these animals and channel their prey drive and natural behavior into trained behaviors for work, or protection.

    The owners need to remember they are responsible to care for these animals and ensure outly aggressive behavior is curbed. Any dog will revert to poor behavior when it's left too long to its own ways.

    I've had numerous encounters with them on public land and public roads as well, like others above. Hopefully, future encounters are all respectful ones. I always respect the animal first, since they are fearful of me and guarding the flock.
    I agree with Dirthound. As bikers we also have to act responsibly and know how these animals act and react. The flyer certainly helps with spreading the info. Certain trailheads also contain smilar information.

    We can't blunder in doing everything wrong when it comes to these animals and expect them to act differently than their instincts/training call for. Its like riding around horses.

    We are talking about public lands, but you still have to act responsibly. These ranchers have been doing this for generations. The agricultural community helps make the Western Slope what it is. It ain't all condos, ranchettes and McMansions.

  11. #11
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    I'm surprised with the Colorado gun owner's mentality that these dogs aren't shot and killed more often if they pose a real threat to people who unknowingly provoke them.
    I mean "people" are shot all the time in Colorado for being on someone's property and allegedly threaten the property owner.
    I'm talking about a human being never mind a dog.

    I can say for sure I would take an eye for an eye if one of these hounds tried to make off with my dog or my leg. Especially now that I have been warned by the owners of their intentions and their possible threat. Sorta like the beware of dog sign that makes the owner of the dog liable without a doubt because of the implied threat acknowledged in the posting of said sign.

    Of course dogs never did scare me all that much. Maybe because I understand and respect them, still I have yet to meet any dog that could cause harm without a lower jaw.

    With all that said and armed with the knowledge that is so generously contained in this post I hope to avoid any confrontations with the hounds. I'm sure killing one of these beasts in Colorado carries a harsh punishment unlike killing a threatening human on your property.

  12. #12
    namagomi
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    Quote Originally Posted by slope folk
    I agree with Dirthound. As bikers we also have to act responsibly and know how these animals act and react.

    ...

    We can't blunder in doing everything wrong when it comes to these animals and expect them to act differently than their instincts/training call for. Its like riding around horses.

    ....

    We are talking about public lands, but you still have to act responsibly. These ranchers have been doing this for generations. The agricultural community helps make the Western Slope what it is. It ain't all condos, ranchettes and McMansions.
    We don't know how these animals will react my friend, please don't try to sell people on that... plenty of dogs do not do the correct thing all the time.. it is an animal bred to be aggressive.

    It is not AT ALL like encountering a horse - maybe more like encountering somebodies pet cougar that got loose.

    IT is public land, NOT the ranchers... what they hell are you talking about mcmansions for? Is this going to turn into another anti-yuppie political rant... i'll hold my nose ok?

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    Quote Originally Posted by slope folk
    ...

    We are talking about public lands, but you still have to act responsibly....
    I'm not meaning to pick on you, but this responsibility should cut both ways. I've got no problems with a rancher or herder using dogs. But the dogs ought to be trained to distinguish between a human, and some type of predator, whether stray dog, coyote, or wolf or mountain lion. That's not an unreasonable thing to expect of a working dog.

    And if there are guard dogs in use on public lands, there ought to be postings at adjacent trailheads.

  15. #15
    bikexor
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    Quote Originally Posted by slope folk

    I agree. Like aruging with a bunch of other mtb'rs online is somehow going to stop a dog from biting your ass. Maybe we should boycott wool jerseys while we're at it...
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    The ranchers and their herders should act responsibly, I am not saying they shouldn't. The flyer is a step in this direction, as are these types of signs at trailheads (scroll down a bit):

    what to ride in Rifle?

    What I am saying is that you can't do everything wrong around the dogs and then say they ought to be kicked off of public lands because they are vicious. This would be the end of sheep ranching, at least around these parts, for the sake of irresponsible recreation.

    Approaching the dogs is a lot like approaching a horse - if you do the wrong things around a horse, you may not get your ass bit, but there is real potential to ruin somebody's day, including your own. As with the dogs, horses do not always recognize mountain bikers as human, so you talk, get off your bike if you have to, and give the animal a chance to perceive you as a human.

    At any rate, its not Disneyland out there. Be responsible. Oh, and have fun!

    Derockus - I was never much of a wool jersey fan - they made me itch. But I think I will pick up some lamb for dinner on the way home.

  17. #17
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    slope folk

    Thanks for that link. Good sign and beautiful trail, by the way.

    HC

  18. #18
    namagomi
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    Quote Originally Posted by slope folk
    The ranchers and their herders should act responsibly, I am not saying they shouldn't. The flyer is a step in this direction, as are these types of signs at trailheads (scroll down a bit):

    what to ride in Rifle?

    What I am saying is that you can't do everything wrong around the dogs and then say they ought to be kicked off of public lands because they are vicious. This would be the end of sheep ranching, at least around these parts, for the sake of irresponsible recreation.


    Easiest to place the onus on the recreational rider ain't it?

    Horses can be taught to not be startled by bicycles, most dogs can be taught not to attack cyclists. Often the owner is to blame for the lack of training or making poor judgments and putting the animal in unfamilar situations(I see many horse owners doing this with spooky horses on public trails)... like that stupid tv show says: "There are no bad dogs, just bad owners"

    The blame rests squarely on the farmers shoulders, it is their dogs doing the attacking.

    You gonna blame this kid also?

    The propaganda flyer is cute, but I can't just slap up posters at my local park saying:

    "WARNING: my pet tiger likes to play here, i have been letting him play here for a while and nobody complained then some dumb girl got attacked because she wore a helmet and not a cowboy hat so i'm putting up these flyers to let people know not to wear helmets and that they should do something about these incidents by just staying clear of this park and walking their dog or ride their bicycle in the city. Thanks!"

    And then blame people when my tiger attacks them because they had a helmet on...

  19. #19
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    I've run into flocks of sheep w/ guard dogs twice on that trail and no problems. The dozen bull elk that leaped up out of one of the lower meadows scared me a lot more. The sight of a small forest of antlers rising out of waist-deep grass is enough to stop anyone's heart.


    ....edit..... sorry for the lack of acrimony in this post.....

  20. #20
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    My friend owns an Anatolian Shepherd (that's what these dogs are) that he rescued after the first owner couldn't handle it. It's a really nice dog around people but their strongest instinct is to attack other dogs so he has to keep it inside his house or on his property on a leash. He'd NEVER let it on public land unleashed. That's just asking for a problem. These sheep owners are being irresponsible in letting these dogs roam free. This is coming from someone who grew up on a sheep farm and owns an Australian Shepherd. Aussies and Border Collies are sufficient flock protectors and are safe around strangers.

    Ranchers in the West seem to forget that they have no more right to public lands than the rest of the public.
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    Quote Originally Posted by electrik


    Easiest to place the onus on the recreational rider ain't it?

    Horses can be taught to not be startled by bicycles, most dogs can be taught not to attack cyclists. Often the owner is to blame for the lack of training or making poor judgments and putting the animal in unfamilar situations(I see many horse owners doing this with spooky horses on public trails)... like that stupid tv show says: "There are no bad dogs, just bad owners"

    The blame rests squarely on the farmers shoulders, it is their dogs doing the attacking.

    You gonna blame this kid also?

    The propaganda flyer is cute, but I can't just slap up posters at my local park saying:

    "WARNING: my pet tiger likes to play here, i have been letting him play here for a while and nobody complained then some dumb girl got attacked because she wore a helmet and not a cowboy hat so i'm putting up these flyers to let people know not to wear helmets and that they should do something about these incidents by just staying clear of this park and walking their dog or ride their bicycle in the city. Thanks!"

    And then blame people when my tiger attacks them because they had a helmet on...
    One of the most basic argumentative techniques is to characterize your opponent's position in absolute terms.

    Another is an emotional appeal, which in this case has nothing to do with the factual situation at hand.

    Then there is the metaphor that is based on a false assumption.

    In any event, winning an argument on the internetz is like pissing yourself in a dark suit, you may get a warm feeling for a short while, but ultimately nobody notices.

    Over and out.

  22. #22
    namagomi
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    Quote Originally Posted by slope folk
    One of the most basic argumentative techniques is to characterize your opponent's position in absolute terms.

    Another is an emotional appeal, which in this case has nothing to do with the factual situation at hand.

    Then there is the metaphor that is based on a false assumption.

    In any event, winning an argument on the internetz is like pissing yourself in a dark suit, you may get a warm feeling for a short while, but ultimately nobody notices.

    Over and out.
    I see you like arguing on the internetz also. Obviously u are new to the real world though!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lelandjt
    My friend owns an Anatolian Shepherd (that's what these dogs are) that he rescued after the first owner couldn't handle it. It's a really nice dog around people but their strongest instinct is to attack other dogs so he has to keep it inside his house or on his property on a leash. He'd NEVER let it on public land unleashed. That's just asking for a problem. These sheep owners are being irresponsible in letting these dogs roam free. This is coming from someone who grew up on a sheep farm and owns an Australian Shepherd. Aussies and Border Collies are sufficient flock protectors and are safe around strangers.

    Ranchers in the West seem to forget that they have no more right to public lands than the rest of the public.
    Not Anatolian Shepherds, they're Great Pyrenees. At least that's what those pictures looks like and what I've seen. Agreed that Anatolian Shepherds can be a handful, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by eletrik
    The blame rests squarely on the farmers shoulders, it is their dogs doing the attacking.
    electrik - you are talking in absolutes.

    Great Pyrenees are beautiful dogs, not aggressive by nature nor bred to be aggressive (sorry, eletrik). They are protective and can be aggressive when they feel their flock (sheep or family) is threatened. As noted, a bike's quickness and relative quietness can cause them to feel threatened, much like horses. I suppose you do nothing when horses are on the trail? You don't move over or get off your bike?

    Dogs should be trained before being sent out alone to guard a flock, but as other users of the land, we also have to be trained and do the right thing when we are out there. That means being aware and not presenting a threat. There's no absolute here; not on the ranchers side nor on ours. We both (ranchers and bikers) have to be responsible users of the outdoors and responsible for what we do out there.

    You wouldn't advocate for a program to eliminate all wild cats from the land, would you?
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  24. #24
    zrm
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    The herder in the camp Hale - Vail Pass area uses Great Pyrenees. I've seen them close up several times. Had a few tense stand offs. Didn't provoke them and they eventually left me alone. I met one dog near the Fowler Hillard hut that was hanging around the herders trailer while the other dogs where out working that was pet like friendly. Came right up to me wagging it's tail, looking for pets and ear scratches. I suspect it was a camp dog and reject.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lelandjt View Post

    ...Ranchers in the West seem to forget that they have no more right to public lands than the rest of the public.
    Nonsense...A rancher "pays" for the grazing rights on public lands making them co-owned with a bias in the ranchers favor (amazing what $ can do when laid across the palm of the FED, or state officials that run the grazing programs). Meaning that iffen one accosts or harms animals protecting or the animals being protected the individual will find themselves in court on criminal charges even if they were protecting themselves. I have yet to find any exception in this regard here in the rocky mt. west. Meaning IMO better to steer clear of known herd areas at a given time than to get into an altercation as its not like there aren't other trails available.

    D.

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