On February 20, 2017, at about 5:30 pm, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call reporting a dog off trail and down an embankment. The reporting person had been walking his dog, “Bella,” a 70-pound bull terrier, about 10 minutes up the John Muir Trail from Happy Isles when he removed Bella’s leash. Bella jumped over a rock retaining wall and onto a small sloping ledge before slipping off about 80 feet to the ground below.
The first park ranger arrived after sunset as sleet and rain fell. He was unable to locate Bella until a second ranger arrived at around 7 pm with a stronger light. Bella was alert and sitting up on her haunches but, fortunately, was not moving. She was only about four feet from the edge of the Merced River’s powerful whitewater.
When two more rangers arrived, they began a technical rescue for Bella. Two rangers rappelled about 140 feet down to Bella’s location and packaged her in a haulbag (a large sturdy equipment bag used by climbers). Miraculously, Bella was only suffering an injured hip. Other rangers raised Bella with the rangers below assisting. Although Bella was anxious, she did fine in her haulbag.
Once on top, Bella reunited with her owner. Rangers cited Bella’s owner for having a pet in an area closed to pets and for having a pet off leash.
Lessons LearnedDogs are not allowed on hiking trails. While dogs are generally allowed on paved trails on the floor of Yosemite, they must be leashed and their excrement must be disposed of in waste receptacles. This protects both pets and wildlife from disease and each other. The National Park Service has prohibited pets on trails for many years. In particular, some pets chase wildlife, pollute water sources, and can become defensive and dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings. Pet owners have the burden to assure their pet does not damage the park values for others in those areas where pets are allowed and to ensure their pet remains safe.
We’re glad that Bella is on a road to recovery but prevention is preferable to rescues, which are not always successful. For yours and your pet’s enjoyment, always plan ahead.