FAIRFIELD, Idaho — The Idaho Rangeland Resources Commission and U.S. Forest Service officials say there have been several incidents lately where people have picked up expensive livestock guardian dogs thinking they are lost or have been abandoned. The dogs, which are often white Great Pyrenees dogs, should be left alone to protect sheep herds, according to officials.
Sheep ranchers and Forest Service officials say this is an emerging problem that is increasing across southern Idaho. Guard dogs are there to protect livestock from predators like coyotes, mountain lions, black bears and wolves.
“I realize that everybody has their own best intentions, but you shouldn’t be taking a guard dog out of its environment, bringing it home, causing undue stress, and exposing it to unnecessary domestication,” says Cory Peavey, a Blaine County sheep rancher, who has had his dogs hauled away to an animal shelter by mistake.
“Out of respect for the dog and the rancher, it’s better to leave them where they are,” Peavey says. “Even if they might look lost, they know the way.”
John Noh, with Noh Sheep Company in Kimberly, has had his guard dogs picked up by people who thought the dog was lost and they ended up at a shelter in the Wood River Valley. This forces Noh to go down and get the dog and return it to his sheep flocks.
“These are working dogs that ranchers rely on to non-lethally protect their sheep from predators,” Noh says. “For people to take these animals out of the woods that ranchers have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars feeding and training is wrong.”
Renee Kehler, a range conservationist for the Sawtooth National Forest, says there have been a number of guard dogs picked up by people thinking they were lost or needing attention.
“It’s been happening a lot lately,” Kehler says. “Please treat them like livestock and leave them alone.”
If you have questions, call the local Forest Service office to report any issues and let the range specialists contact the ranchers to check if there are any issues or concerns. Livestock guard dogs often have a collar with a name and phone number on them. If a person has questions, they should also call those numbers to see if the dog is lost, according to a news release.
“For me, I’d appreciate a phone call over taking my dog,” Peavey says.