NOS Mission

Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Trail Log

Second Lake in the Palisades, CA
"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." - Aldo Leopold

Thursday, November 15, 2012

To Shock or Not to Shock

As a Leave No Trace Master Educator it was a bit embarrassing having an impact monster for a dog – particularly her wildlife chasing habit. People have different opinions on dogs and leashes. My personal opinion is if it is permitted, your dog is legitimately under voice control, and you are respectful of other people - a leash is not necessary.

I tried using a “stay close” command, where my dog, Aspen was in front of me, but close enough I could call her back. This just ended with me yelling at her constantly, frustrating me, disrupting other visitors, and wildlife running for the hills.

I tried having her on leash. Between watching my step, her step, making her heel, and trying to enjoy the scenery it’s a miracle I didn’t fall on my face or off a cliff.

The next idea was having Aspen walk behind me and using a “back” command. This worked extremely well, until she spotted a bogie (what I call wildlife) before me. My lab/whippet mix would be gone before I could think of grabbing the handle on her pack – apparently whippets are the fastest sprinters in the dog kingdom, lucky me. I still use this method, but with the addition of a shock collar.

Impact monster no more!
I used to be adamantly against shock collars, until I watched in horror as Aspen chased a chipmunk through a bolder field just waiting for her to break a leg. Which got me thinking, what if she chases a deer in front of a car? While historically she has always come back from her romps in the forest, she can’t come running back with a broken limb or internal bleeding or worse.

Some of you may be wondering about my thoughts on wildlife’s health and safety? That is a concern as well – they’re expending energy that needs to be conserved to escape wild predators and survive winter’s cold.

The collar I got her has a few key features. For one, the radio reaches the collar up to 400 yards, for my sprinter that was critical. It does no good if I’m calling her and she is out of range. It has three settings: a tone, a zap, and a continuous zap. The idea being I call Aspen (always with the same, “Aspen, come here”) > no response > tone > call again > no response > zap > call again > no response >continuous zap (which really only needs to be about two seconds). With this series of events she has learned to associate the tone with the action she needs to do; now more than half the time a zap isn’t needed. The zap has eight intensity settings; Aspen is rather sensitive so hers only needs to be set at two. I even put the collar on my arm to see how it felt, while it’s not pleasant, it didn’t hurt, but definitely got my attention.

When talking to other dog owners about shock collars, I continuously hear that once the shock collar comes out or the dog sees a remote they are on their best behavior or cower in fear. That’s not what I’m after. The idea is for her to learn not to chase wildlife in general, not to associate pain with the shock collar. I have avoided Aspen associating the desired behavior with the shock collar by putting it on her when we go outside for her morning constitutional and taking it off after her last trip out at night. In between those times if she’s in the house or her kennel I’ll loosen the collar so it’s more comfortable for her, but it’s still on so she is used to the collar being there all the time.

We’ve been on a few day-trips and one backpacking trip since Aspen got her collar and the difference is amazing! Sure she still tailgates a bit when hiking on the trail and lies on my sleeping bag instead of her blanket, but the wildlife chasing is under control. Every dog is different, but if the situation calls for it and it is used correctly, I would recommend a shock collar to train those impact monsters.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Vandalism Doesn't Pay

This is the door on a historic cabin turned back-country
ranger station that people have been using as a carving post.
Your tax dollars wasted on vandalism...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Treading Lightly at Sand Mountain

Halloween weekend is one of the busiest times at Sand Mountain Recreation Area (SMRA), seeing thousands of visitors.  Located about 25 miles East of Fallon on Highway 50 in Nevada, Sand Mountain is a popular spot for ORV (Off-road vehicle) enthusiasts.  This past weekend, Nevada Outdoor School partnered with the Bureau of Land Management to provide Tread Lightly! information and ATV Rider Course possibilities to the public. 
This was my first visit to Sand Mountain and I was amazed with what I saw.  Staying along Vendor Row gave me an up-front view to the wild fun and craziness of the weekend.  It was extremely impressive to see how many safe riding practices were being followed: Whip flags, helmets, speed limits, SIPDE (a riding strategy to reduce and manage risk –ASI).  However, the most impressive and encouraging thing I encountered by far was the support for Tread Lightly!

We had an information booth set up with handouts about Sand Mountain, invasive species in Nevada and Tread Lightly!  Many people came over to get information and share their riding experiences and thoughts.  One such conversation that sticks out in my mind was with a 12 year-old girl and her grandfather.  They have been coming to SMRA for years and are ORV enthusiasts.  The young girl told us about riding with her grandfather around the dunes and seeing other ORVs riding in restricted areas.  As she happily took another Tread Lightly! Lightfoot tattoo, she told us that her grandfather said actions like that are what’s going to get OHV use possibly banned from this area in the future.  In truth, her grandfather might be on to something. 

Sand Mountain Recreation Area is home to many unique plant and animal species.  Some of these species, like the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly only live in this small area of Nevada.  Unfortunately, loss of critical habitat due to OHV use is threatening these species.  The BLM has tried to minimize this impact by closing and restricting access to certain trails and areas within SMRA but unfortunately, not all recreationalists follow these posted signs and closures.  This is causing groups such as Xerces to call for the Sand Mountain Blue to be put on the Endangered Species list and therefore get protection under the Endangered Species Act. 
I think we can all take a lesson from the little girl and grandfather that I met this weekend.  OHV enthusiasts will benefit more in the future by Treading Lightly and following posted signs and closures to ensure the continued access to great OHV recreation sites such as Sand Mountain.

Have a blast out there and remember to Tread Lightly!


Jessie and Brenna getting ready to check out Sand Mountain