Owl, Hunted

A park visitor on Friday morning saw a shepherd-type dog flushing a Burrowing Owl that was hidden in the Nature Area on the north side of the park. Dogs, on leash or off, are barred from being in that area.

The video above was taken a day later, showing a different dog doing the same thing: hunting in the Nature Area, with an owner nowhere in sight. It happens almost every day.

Most dog owners know and obey the regulations and don’t let their dogs run loose where they shouldn’t. But there’s a few who don’t have control over their animals, or just don’t care what they do. The seventeen acres in the Off-Leash Area aren’t enough for them.

There is on paper a dog owner’s group that, among other things, educates members about park dos and don’ts. As far as I know — correct me if I’m wrong — the group hasn’t held a meeting in years, maybe in a decade. The educational effort being done is zero. Outlaw owners have a free hand, with no peer pressure to rein them in.

A Parks manager told us this past September that boundary markers around the dog park, and a screening fence on the interface between the dog area and the Nature Area, were in the pipeline, just waiting for the soil to be wet enough to drive the poles. How much wetter does the soil have to be before this work gets started?

It is against state and federal law to disturb migratory birds, the Burrowing Owl among them. Owners who let their dogs hunt these birds can be fined and locked up. It’s an open question in the law whether Parks management that enables this harassment is also liable. Certainly, leaving vulnerable species unprotected, when protection is possible, is remote from good park stewardship.

Off-leash dog hunting in Nature Area where dogs are prohibited

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