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In Colorado, sheep ranchers try to make peace with cyclists

October 3, 2011 |  2:31 pm

Colorado sheepdog attacks 
In Colorado’s scenic backcountry, tension has simmered for years between outdoor enthusiasts and sheep ranchers, whose guard dogs sometimes lunge and snap at hikers and cyclists they confuse with potential predators.

The most high-profile case unfolded in 2009, when a jury found sheepherder Sam Robinson guilty of owning a dangerous dog, a misdemeanor. Robinson’s white Great Pyrenees, Tiny and Pastor, who had chased off mountain lions and coyotes for years, had viciously attacked mountain biker Renee Legro during a race. (Read The Times’ coverage here.)

Many sheepherders don’t want to get rid of their dogs, which are gifted at sparing lambs from becoming snacks for bears and mountain lions. So these days, sheepherders are training their “livestock protection dogs” to better coexist with cyclists. “I think we'll have an easier time training the dogs than the people,” sheep rancher Ernie Etchart told the Denver Post. Among the methods ranchers are trying: having people bike around the dogs to get them used to cyclists.

The sheep industry is trying to educate backcountry users, as well. If you run across a Turkish Akbash or Great Pyrenees guarding a herd, the Post reported, "stop and get off your bike, put your bike between you and the dog and tell the dog to 'go back to the sheep.' "

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-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Twitter.com/ashleypowers

Photo: Sheep rancher Sam Robinson was convicted of owning a dangerous dog after two of his guard dogs attacked a mountain biker. Credit: Nathan W. Armes / For The Times

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