Some pets are problems on Hawaii trails

Off-leash animals generate complaints

Published  3:57 PM HST Dec 29, 2012
HONOLULU -

Last December the state put up signs along hiking trails in response to attacks by loose hunting dogs.

A year later, some residents still aren't following the rules designed to keep people and pets safe.

On a beautiful weekend, many hit hiking trails around Hawaii to get away from the crowds and civilization.

"We love to get into nature, get away from the hustle and bustle. Hiking is a great way to do that," said Manoa resident Ted Bohlen.

Humans don't always go it alone, pets are also found on popular paths.

Some of these trails are also used by hunters and their dogs.

Problems in the past prompted the state to put up the new signs so everyone would know what rules to follow, but not all are paying attention.

"Many pet owners don't realize it is important to have your dog on a leash, in and out of the forest. It's important to have control of your dog," said Aaron Lowe, Oahu's Trail & Access Specialist.

According to the rules, there is one type of dog allowed off-leash -- hunting dogs. Those animals play a big part in keeping the lush, forest areas pristine.

"Dog and knife hunting is very effective in eradicating pigs in our forests. Keeping those feral populations down is very important to us," said Lowe.

Not everyone is comfortable sharing the trail with a pack of canine hunters.

"I have a little pause being out on a trail with hunting dogs," said Bohlen.

That is why Lowe advises hikers to look around in active hunting areas and to check to see if pig hunter's trucks are at trail entrances. If they are, hikers may want to choose another place to explore -- especially if they trekking with a pet.

Over the past year, the state has taken in a number of complaints about animals on the trails and hunting dogs weren't the ones causing the most problems.

"Most of the problems, we found, was because the pet dog was off-leash in the incident," said Lowe.

Many hikers like getting in touch with nature, but for some a close call with a loose pet can turn a tranquil trek into a wild one.

"People who were more obnoxious were the ones who had dogs off leash. They were telling us 'My dog is trained, don't worry about him,' and of course that is the dog that is running off," said Tonya Youngberg, a visitor from Canada.

Before hikers head out for the forest, it's a good idea to know what they're getting into.

Find out how challenging a trail is, along with learning if there is legal hunting allowed in the area by heading to the state's Na Ala Hele website at hawaiitrails.ehawaii.gov.  That is also where troubles on the trails can be reported.

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