A Basalt woman was ticketed earlier this month after her two dogs bolted during a walk, then chased and fatally injured a young elk, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Chelsie DeMarco was cited on one charge of allowing a dog she owns to harass wildlife, according to the wildlife department report. She paid a $200 fine and $76 in fees and surcharges, the report said. She didn’t formally contest the charge.
DeMarco was walking her dog on Arbaney Ranch Road, which leads into the northern half of the Roaring Fork Club, on July 31. The two dogs ran from DeMarco’s vicinity and eventually gave chase to the elk, according to Matt Yamashita, district wildlife manager for Basalt. Witnesses who were playing and working at the golf course said they tried to scare the dogs off to no avail, he said.
Basalt police officers were called to the scene at about 8 p.m. for a report of an injured deer.
“During the chase, the elk sustained multiple injuries and was unable to stand,” the police report said. “Due to the injuries, the elk was euthanized.”
Basalt police contacted Yamashita the following day, and he pursued an investigation.
“The elk was missing hair on the back of its legs and its throat area,” he said.
It appeared that the young cow elk ran off a ledge, Yamashita said. That’s unusual and something an elk wouldn’t do if not under duress, he said.
The state law on harassment of wildlife allows the charge to be filed even if the dog doesn’t directly inflict the injuries.
A husky mix appeared to be the main aggressor among the dogs, witnesses told Yamashita. They reported the dog was standing over the maimed, bleeding elk and could only be chased away with great difficulty, he said.
“It was not a good situation and not what anybody wants to see,” Yamashita said.
The dogs were found by golf-course workers that evening and united with DeMarco by using information on the dogs’ tags, Yamashita said. A message left for DeMarco by The Aspen Times wasn’t returned Thursday.
Yamashita said he understands that many residents of the Roaring Fork Valley enjoy owning dogs and taking them for walks.
“With that comes a responsibility,” he said.
Dog owners need to keep their dogs on leashes or otherwise under control when there is the potential for contact with wildlife, Yamashita said.
He cited DeMarco on only one count of a dog harassing wildlife, though evidence indicated both dogs chased the elk. Under state law, the wildlife division also can put a dog down for harassing wildlife, but Yamashita said he chose not to go that route.
He said most of the dog calls to Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the valley are for pets that come up on the losing end of an encounter with cougars or coyotes.
“This is a good reminder that dogs aren’t always the victim,” he said.
In Yamashita’s four years in the Basalt district, reports of dogs harassing wildlife have been rare but not unknown. Most conflicts come during winters, when deer and elk can least afford to expend energy eluding dogs, he said.