HomeOutdoorsNewsThis beaver mauling is why dog leash laws exist in U.S. National Parks

This beaver mauling is why dog leash laws exist in U.S. National Parks

by Jon D. B.
Wild beaver and loose dogs
Wild beaver and loose dogs. (Photos by Patrick Pleul/picture alliance, NurPhoto/NurPhoto, via Getty Images)

Earlier this month, a Rock Creek Park visitor’s loose, off-leash dog attacked and mauled a wild beaver in it’s natural habitat. National Park Service (NPS) officials were forced to euthanize the wild animal.

The incident took place on Sunday, May 14 in the Washington, D.C. NPS park near Boulder Bridge. The severity of the beaver’s injuries from the dog attack left officials no choice but to end it’s suffering.

As a dog owner, this is a tough subject. Dogs are our family, and few things are more fulfilling than exploring the outdoors with pups in tow. But in places like our great National Parks that exist to protect the wild places we have left, we’ve got to respect that this mission, NPS’s mission, comes first. This means keeping dogs on a leash at all times in national parks. Otherwise, dog families run the risk of destroying the very thing we set out to appreciate and enjoy.

This is tricky, too, however. Each NPS site holds different leash laws. Some don’t allow pets at all. And with 63 national parks and over 400 NPS sites across the U.S., there are a lot of leash and pet laws to keep up with.

Thankfully, Camping World has a fantastic breakdown of NPS dog leash laws (from first-hand experience) in every U.S. National Park. If you’re also a dog owner and national park lover, I highly recommend checking it out next.

Regardless, “Keeping your dog on a leash keeps everyone safe, including your dog, park wildlife, native plants and other park visitors,” NPS cites in this week’s media release covering the beaver attack.

Moreover, federal regulations require all pets to be always on a leash no longer than six feet: 

  • to ensure the safety of your pet
  • to reduce conflicts with other visitors and their pets
  • to limit potential exposure and spread of disease
  • to protect wildlife, such as beavers, red foxes, coyotes and more

For D.C.’s Rock Creek Park specifically, NPS reminds visitors that dogs must be on a leash no longer than six feet in Rock Creek Park and other local national parks at all times. “It’s the law,” officials emphasize.

Beaver maulings, bear attacks, and more reasons to be responsible dog owners

As the park notes, “Beavers are native to Rock Creek Park.” Entering the park means entering their home; their territory. Unleashing a dog in this environment is, essentially, accepting that you are okay with your pet potentially pursuing, threatening, or mauling native wildlife. And beavers are absolutely adorable and vital to their ecosystems. No one wants this to happen.

“On any given day, visitors can find evidence of beaver activity from dams they have built to trees they have chewed on,” the park continues. “It is always exciting to see a beaver in the park, but visitors and their pets should always recreate responsibly and stay a safe distance from any wildlife.”

This is only one side of the equation, too. On Saturday, April 22, two visitors were hiking with their two dogs on the Wabasso Lake Trail in Jasper National Park. The group was returning to the trailhead with the dogs running freely between them.

Again, both Canadian and American national parks require pets to be on leashes in all areas they are allowed at all times. But when the national park you’re visiting is also in bear country, abiding by these laws becomes even more imperative. And what followed on April 22 is a prime example of why.

For more on this incident, see our What do you do when bear spray fails? coverage next.

For locals, click here to learn more about how to safely and responsibly recreate with your dog in D.C.’s Rock Creek Park.