Its easy to consider the Open Space as a harmless, protected park, after all the department is called “Open Space and Mountain Parks”, however there are very real dangers for the visitor and their dog, particularly in summer. This page is to raise awareness rather than instill fear. If you take sensible precautions there probably will not be problems, but “forwarned is forarmed”.
RattleSnakes – There is a pretty good chance of you or your dog encountering Rattlesnakes if you are on some trails early on summer days. Looks like they warm up on the open trail and move into the underbrush as foot traffic increases. The original Homestead Trail by the river was a pretty reliable area to come across them early in the day and the area round the bridge must still be considered risky, so much so that I usually drop a leash over the dog in this area, but you cant account for bad luck. Its a good idea to know if your vet carries anti venom serum.
Coyotes – There are coyotes all over the Open Space and every other year there are reports of them springing out of the underbrush and taking small dogs. Packs will also work together to lure and ambush larger dogs, or just turn on larger dogs that get too close. Having said that, they are usually just watching you pass by from the tree line.
Cactus – There is a common type of cactus with wicked long spines that will get into your dogs paws and then get stuck in their mouths when they try to remove them. They are also a real danger to barefoot runners and at least one runner had to be helped back to the car with 1/2 spine stuck in her foot.
Lyme Disease – We often hear that the deer are dying out round Shanahan Ridge because they are disturbed by off leash dogs, but the fact is OSMP’s own studies have shown that much of the herd is infected with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
Back in the day the predators would take out the sickly deer but they are allowed to die slowly and winter will take the weak ones. The problem for dog owners is that if a dog comes across a carcass it may be tempted to try and eat it. We often come across deer legs along Doudy Draw trail in early summer. If the dog gets access to the hide of the carcass it may pick up deer ticks, and that is the carrier of Lyme Disease, which also affects humans. Good article on Lyme Disease in dogs here.
West Nile Virus – Carried by mosquito of which there are plenty on summer evenings. Article on West Nile Virus from the CDC here.
Plague – Sylvatic Plague or Pneumonic Plague on fleas in the Prairie Dog colony. Fatal to the Prairie Dogs and a danger to humans if your dog gets into the colony and carries fleas back to you. An article on Plague in Prairies dogs here
Lion – We know they are there, and attacks are serious, some documented round Boulder in the book “Beast in the Garden“. Not much to say about this that we dont know.
Bear – Early in the mornings there are often bear watching from the tree line on certain trails. Not heard of bear attacks but they are too big to mess with, hopefully your dog will have a little common sense and avoid them.