Sheepdog encounters common on area trails
A Glenwood Springs woman who was attacked by a sheepdog years ago on a popular Glenwood Springs trail says the attack was one of the most frightening moments of her life.But Noreen Steiner said she hopes liability concerns associated with sheep grazing in the area don’t shut down access on the trail. “I wouldn’t want to close off the access, but people should be informed, because it was really scary,” she said.Steiner said recreationists need to be alert to the danger they face when sheepdogs are in an area.Two sheepdogs attacked her several years ago as she rode a trail that begins below Linwood, or Pioneer, Cemetery. The trail crosses through private property before going through a gate and topping out on BLM property.Steiner was riding her mountain bike by herself and had just reached the BLM land when two sheepdogs attacked her. One bit her, knocking her off her bike.”Those things were huge and ugly and right in my face after he knocked me off,” she said.Steiner said she still has a big scar on her buttocks and thigh from being bitten.Steiner was lying in sagebrush after the initial attack, her feet still clipped into her bike pedals. She remembers the bigger dog getting into her face.”His breath was really putrid, it was so gross,” she said.”I was so scared and trapped, I just knew, ‘If you don’t do something now you’re going down.'”She tried to use a bike to shield herself from the dogs, and kept screaming at them. She tried to back away from them, while the bigger dog repeatedly walked away and then charged again, apparently only stopping once she got out of his territory and away from the sheep, Steiner said.The dogs kept her from riding back down the trail she had come up. Instead, she had to ride a traversing trail over to the Boy Scouts Trail and back to town, and medical help.”I’m scared to death of dogs now. I could have been killed. They were going after my throat,” she said.Yet Steiner said she realizes the dogs were only doing their job. She thinks it would be a shame if public access to the trail above the cemetery is lost.”It’s absolutely stunning,” she said of the trail, which affords a view of Mount Sopris and the Elk Mountains at its top. “And it’s part of our town.”But she said the sheepdogs do present a danger. One solution might be to close the trail only when sheep are being grazed in the area, she said. That way, for example, the trail could still be used in the winter by sledders and others. Grazing ended on the BLM allotment late this fall.Another approach, if property owners are concerned about liability, would be to post signs alerting people to sheepdogs, she said.”The access is important for bikers and hikers and it’s such an incredible area, but you don’t want to find out once you’re up there that these dogs are ready to kill you,” Steiner said.Mark Wimmer, a rangeland management specialist with the BLM, said he’s not aware of any problems in that area in the year and a half he has overseen grazing permits there.A BLM sign warning of sheepdogs has been posted at the top gate in the past. The BLM also posts signs in other places where there is a high potential of conflict between recreationists and sheep dogs.”It’s not like nothing’s being done. There is an awareness that we’ve got a potential problem with people doing that,” Wimmer said.
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