Know before you go: Help protect wildlife, keep dogs on a leash April 1 to July 31

With the summer season right around the corner, now’s the time to get out and enjoy Washington’s great outdoors. The warmer weather beckons us to stretch our legs and enjoy fresh air on the trail. As spring transitions into summer, does are giving birth to fawns, there are ground-nesting birds tending to their eggs and young chicks, and sensitive plants growing to provide food and habitat for wildlife.

If you have a canine companion, chances are they’re eager to join you outdoors, too. While dogs are welcome at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wildlife areas and water access areas, WDFW reminds visitors to follow these rules to keep pets, wildlife, habitat, and people safe.

  • Keep dogs and other pets leashed April 1 through July 31 to help protect habitat, wildlife and people (it’s the law — WAC 220–500–170).
  • Leash or attend to dogs within 500 feet of a designated campground.
  • Keep dogs from pursuing, harassing, attacking, or killing deer, elk, or endangered animals. Field trials for hunting dogs require a permit.

Violations are punishable as an infraction under RCW 77.15.160 with a penalty of $150.

WDFW wildlife areas help protect habitat and wildlife

WDFW manages more than 1 million acres of public land, 33 wildlife areas and over 450 water access areas throughout the state. Acquired mostly through state and federal grants, these lands dot every county across Washington and provide protected areas for wildlife and their habitat while offering meaningful outdoor experiences for all Washingtonians.

Each wildlife area is guided by a management plan that addresses the status of wildlife species and their habitat, habitat restoration, public recreation, weed management, and other activities to meet the Department’s mission of preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife, and ecosystems.

These plans help to envision a future for habitat and wildlife protection as well as safe and sustainable outdoor recreation.

Tips for exploring WDFW-managed lands with your dog

With wildlife and habitat protection in mind, visitors leashing dogs not only helps advance conservation at these wildlife areas and water access areas, but also helps to foster outdoor experiences that are safe — and fun.

Dogs still have many of their ancestral instincts to hunt and kill, and birds and other wildlife perceive them as a wild threat. This can create an unsafe situation for dogs and wildlife.

When dogs chase an animal, they can cause it harm — even if they do not catch or kill it. Dogs can indirectly stress wildlife by forcing animals to leave their habitat where they eat and rest. Dogs may also stress birds to the point of abandoning their nests, leaving the eggs or young chicks vulnerable to other predators. This is especially concerning for wildlife babies in the spring and early summer.

Off-leash exploration can also come with some increased risks for dogs, such as picking up ticks or other parasites, spreading invasive species, or causing conflict or potentially deadly interactions with wildlife such as porcupines, coyotes, bears, cougars, or wolves. Dogs can also get injured or eat something that’s bad for them, or experience conflict with other visitors. We all share the space and should provide common courtesy to others.

Dog’s guide to #RecreateResponsibly

Tips for how to #RecreateResponsibly with a dog.

The next time you’re enjoying a WDFW wildlife area or water access area, remember to #RecreateResponsibly:

Not sure of where to go? With so much to explore, it’s likely there’s a WDFW wildlife area or water access area near you. Visit our website to gather ideas of places to go.

For more information about the rules to keep your next visit to WDFW-managed lands safe and fun, visit our website.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.