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Trail safety for pet walkers
by Landess Witmer PetFolio Publisher
Feb 22, 2012 | 1564 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy Illustration/ 
Turi Everett
Courtesy Illustration/ Turi Everett
Pet lovers really enjoy getting out in nature with their animals. And with the warm winter our area has experienced this year more residents are walking off trail with their families and pets. Unfortunately, when you hike, dog walk or lollygag up the northern Nevada hills, you might encounter a wiley coyote, rattle snake or even a black bear.

I recently spoke to Lynn Lloyd, master of the hounds for Reno’s Red Rock Hounds, and asked her for advice to help those hikers, dog walkers and people with pets in the hills who cross that imaginary line into the world of the coyote.

Lloyd advises dog walkers to be prepared by carrying a stick, pepper spray or anything that’s legal to protect your pet and yourself. “Think big, be loud and you can throw rocks if needed” is the advice I learned from Lloyd.

According to Lloyd, “The more civilization we have, the more pressure there is on our native coyotes.”

Lloyd has close knowledge of coyotes, since she’s internationally known for chasing them with her walker hounds and horseback riders. She appreciates the beauty of the coyote, but warns that the coyote must be respected for its cunning and survivability.

Keeping the balance between conservation efforts and community growth is tricky. She explained that coyotes are scavengers as well as predators.

“Indian lore is filled with a fascination of coyotes because of their ability to stay alive and have a sense of humor,” Lloyd said.

Co-existence today is even more important.

“We need to find a way to keep our trails safe for dogs, cats and children.

“There aren’t many wolves left roaming, but coyotes are everywhere,” Lloyd continued. “That must mean that the coyote is smarter than the wolf.”

In the spring and summer months, and even on a warm winter day, rattlesnakes can also be a hazard on a northern Nevada trail. Hidden under large rocks and crevices, their sandy coloring helps them blend in with their surroundings. Rattlesnake bites are painful and very dangerous for you and your dog.

Never stop to look at a rattler on the trail; they don’t have to be coiled to strike, and they don’t always make a rattle sound. Since snakes can’t see very well, they will simply react to anything unknown by defending themselves. Don’t let your dog nose around under rocks, crevices, or loose pieces of wood without looking for snakes first. Best advice is to walk “heavy.” If you put down your feet heavily, the vibrations will encourage snakes to leave the trail area.

And, yes, there are bears in northern Nevada. We don’t see them often, but they can be around and you need to be keenly aware of them. More common in drought years, stray bears may venture into the community, but most of the time they stay in the high country around Lake Tahoe. Bears are rarely seen on common hiking trails, but there are some things you can do to make sure you and your pets don’t have an encounter with a bear.

You can contact the local forest service or game and fish department to find out about recent bear activity in the area where you’d like to hike. When you pack your lunch for your hike, avoid smelly, greasy foods such as bacon and fish. If you are worried about bear sightings in the area you wish to visit, avoid hiking at dawn and dusk. You’ll have less chance of running into a hungry bear, because they are most active in the cooler parts of the day. Think “BIG and TALL!” If ever you do see a bear on your hike, avoid eye contact, don’t turn your back to the bear and back slowly away. Remember, usually the bear will be the first to leave the area.

Read more about current events and local pet outtings in, “A World Unleashed,” at

Pet Hiking Must Haves!

• Physically Fit Pet

• Obedience-trained pet

• Toys, Frisbee, or Chuckit

• Pet waste bags

• Collapsible water and food dishes

• Leash, waist belt system or harness

• Cooling collar for hot days

• Canine cream or boots for snow

• Emergency pet first-aid kit

• Bell tied to your pet’s collar

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Trail safety for pet walkers by Landess Witmer PetFolio Publisher

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