Dogs could soon be banned from parts of Dane County conservancy

MIDDLETON (WKOW) -- In an effort to save species at the Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, a group is proposing a ban on dogs in nearly 100 acres of the nature area. 

It's a vast, 545 acres of sprawling grasslands, marsh and scenic nature. It's the perfect place for walks and hikes, even with your furry friend. 

"Cider," Lloyd Eagan said as she called her dog for a walk. 

Eagan brings her pup often to the area. But soon, Cider and all other dogs may not be allowed in parts of the area. 

"It makes me sad that I won't be able to take my dog up to the top of Fredrick's Hill," said Eagan, who is also the president of Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. It's a group that tried to keep the area clean and safe for wildlife. 

She favors the proposal to ban dogs from about 96 acres, or roughly 17 percent of the conservancy. The area where dogs would be banned serves as a safe harbor for migrating birds. 

"Without this habitat, they might disappear," added Eagan. 

Susan Gruber has volunteered for years at the conservancy. She says she spends hours out on the land, daily. 

"We've seen a decline in the number of birds that have been out here and the kind of birds that have returned year after year," said Gruber. 

She, along with Eagan, said off-leash dogs are a big reason for that. 

"Many times they are running into the prairies, not staying on the trails and they flush out birds and they flush out animals," Gruber added. 

Right now, dogs are allowed in the area but they must be on a leash at all times. Signs that talk about the proposed dog ban are posted in the conservancy so visitors know what could soon happen. 

If the proposal passes the the parks commission and the Dane County Board, dogs would still be allowed to walk on the other marked trails at the conservancy. 

The Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy conducted a survey and found that there is some opposition. 

"[There's] less than 20 percent who oppose. So, yeah, there's going to be people who aren't going to be happy about this," Eagan said. 

Still, she hopes dog owners will understand the reason for the proposed ban on some of the property. 

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