MISSOULA - All North Hills trails — including the Sunlight Lands trailhead and all points north — are closed to dogs.
The closure — which is expected to last until approximately July 18 — includes the Froelich (Orange and I-90), Waterworks, and Mountain View trailheads.
The closure is in place as over 800 sheep work to help with noxious weed control on City Open Space.
Limited areas on the North Hills and Mount Jumbo will be temporarily closed to dogs this summer as the sheep graze on invasive species like dalmatian toadflax, leafy spurge, and spotted knapweed.
Hiking without pets is permitted during dog closures; visit trailheads and www.missoulaparks.org for closure maps and more information.
Grazing is a low-cost, effective way to control weeds and helps reduce reliance on chemical herbicides on City open space, Conservation Lands Manager Jeff Gicklhorn noted.
Grazing areas are completely closed to dogs this year because of the size of the sheep herd and the risks to both sheep and domestic dogs.
“At over 800 head, this by far the largest grazing project the City has ever undertaken,” said Gicklhorn. “In the past, we’ve had maybe 100-200 sheep on open space lands."
"With a herd this large, the potential for injury to both sheep and domestic dogs increases exponentially. No matter how well a dog is trained, his instinct to chase could put both him and the sheep in danger," he added.
Gicklhorn is also reminding hikers to avoid the sheep and their canine protectors during the dog closures.
Residents can call 911 to report closure violations and are encouraged to note vehicle license plates of violators if possible.
The project is funded by the 2018 Conservation Lands Mill Levy. Maps and closure notices ar posted at https://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/206/Conservation-Lands-Closures and are also posted at the trailheads.