When Our Decisions Endanger Our Pets

April 07, 2017 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
We normally have stories about people making choices that result in them needing a rescue. This story is about choices leading to a dog needing a rescue.
Searchers' spotlights peering down a cliff and wall from aboveOn 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 Learned

Dogs 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.

yosemite, search and rescue, dog

5 Comments Comments icon

  1. Richard Davis
    October 28, 2018 at 08:13

    Sorry Bella your owner is an idiot.

  2. 1
    July 29, 2018 at 02:58


  3. 1
    July 28, 2018 at 10:34


  4. Kayla
    April 24, 2018 at 04:40

    Wow that is a very tragic and scary thing to happen. And the bad thing is that I see dogs on many different hiking trails that I’m sure they are not supposed to be on. I’ve seen some on vernal falls and upper Yosemite trail

  5. Josh
    August 30, 2017 at 06:18

    Interesting account. Wise to check with NPS regarding dog-legal areas within the park; a popular internet-based hiking guide lists the entirety of the John Muir Trail, as well as the Snow Creek Falls, Tenaya Lake, Yosemite Valley via JMT loop as dog-legal, as long as dogs are leashed. I could have possibly made a similar mistake hiking with our four-legged friend, had I not spoken with a ranger within the park last year.

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Last updated: April 7, 2017

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