GC VILLAGE — Grand Canyon Village’s dog problem does not seem to be improving much after a series of recent incidents.
Mark Law, acting South Rim district ranger, told those in attendance at the Feb. 14 community meeting that dog owners need to take responsibility for their pets.
"There have been several incidents of pets in the area running free," Law said. "The same dogs have bitten three different people. It’s not a right to have pets, it’s a privilege … subject to rules and regulations. Now is a good time to comply with that policy."
After three incidents with the same dog, the animal is then classified as vicious, Law said. There have been repeated incidents involving one local resident and Law said that situation is being dealt with through criminal justice. There have also been a few other dog biting incidents in just the past few weeks.
The big news in recent weeks involved a wild pack of dogs that had killed several wildlife and could pose a threat to people. The pack had been spotted in the village area and the effort to shoot the dogs continues.
"They are truly wild animals. They’ve been sighted in the Canyon at Phantom Ranch and as far south as the airport," Law said. "If you see them, give dispatch a call."
The wild dog pack goes through periods where they are not seen for several days. The leader of the pack appears to be a black dog with long hair.
One person at the community meeting asked why the dogs can’t be captured instead of destroyed.
"I’ve been up close and personal with these dogs," Law said. "They won’t let us trap them."
Elaine Leslie, wildlife biologist for the park, said the dog issue is not new but has escalated in recent months.
"When we take one dog out, they recruit another," Leslie said about the pack. "We tried to trap them. They’re truly vicious animals. If we tried to transport them to Flagstaff, it’s not worth the safety involved. They have to be destroyed. There’s no other way around it."
The situation has heightened to a point where the park has a ranger dedicated to feral pets.
One community member, who lives outside the park, said he’s been carrying a gun around his residence in the forest because of the wild dog pack.
Another resident felt fingers were being pointed at local dog owners regarding the wild pack problem. She said the dogs didn’t necessarily come from within the park, but could have made their way in from Tusayan or from an Indian reservation, where dogs often run wild.
Despite where the wild pack originated, Leslie just wanted residents to know that they must control their own dogs or there could be consequences.
"If we don’t start getting this under control, the park may lose its pet privileges," said Leslie, who added that many other parks do not allow pets. "If it’s not under control, this will be coming up in the next couple of years."
In other news from the Feb. 14 meeting:
o The construction supervisor for the NPS maintenance building project said the utility corridor area near Grand Canyon Walk-In Clinic was finished and ready for the park’s revegetation crew. The plan for planting includes trees along either side of Center Road and in the Randy Thompson Circle vicinity near Clinic Road. The building project could see block wall construction begin by May 1.
o Amfac Parks and Resorts chief engineer Bob Baker reported on various concessioner projects. Yavapai West is going through a remodel project with improved plumbing fixtures and new paint. The El Tovar "pot room" is getting an upgrade. Phantom Ranch work includes a new water line and rebuilt trail.
o Sarah White, NPS chief compliance officer, went over various issues. The backcountry office environmental assessment was being prepared. The Desert View housing project will start Sept. 1 after the nesting period ends for the Mexican spotted owl. Backcountry toilets are being rehabilitated.
o GCNP project implementation manager Brad Traver said the section of Greenway Trail east of Mather Point toward the Twin Overlooks will not be paved until this fall. The NPS delayed the project for Mexican spotted owl nesting. This summer, the unpaved dirt trail will be open to the public.
o Traver added that the trail from Canyon View Information Plaza toward Grand Canyon Village will be finished when weather improves. The Greenway section from CVIP to Tusayan will likely be constructed next year.
o Shuttle bus route changes will go into effect on Friday. Hermit Road and the South Kaibab Trail-Yaki Point area will be closed to private vehicles. There will be a few changes with routes.
o Park superintendent Joe Alston said a planning staff needs to be hired for the Colorado River Management Plan process.
o The main concessions contract between the park and Amfac had been signed for various reasons.
o NPS Internet access has resumed for the NPS after several Department of Interior agencies were ordered by a federal judge to shut down Web sites. Internet access has been dealt with on an agency-by-agency basis.