I took a walk the other day on the Coal Mine Ridge trail system and almost immediately encountered a covey of quail having a good time there on the dusty trail. I stopped to watch while they, in their own little two-minute routine, disappeared one by one into seemingly impenetrable brush.
I wonder how they would have reacted had I had a dog with me. My guess is that the quail would have shown another side of their behavior and gotten out of there, and quick.
Later on that hike and deeper into the trail system, on a lonely and rather steep climb, I heard a jingling and a jangling behind me. I stopped and the dog and owner trotted by without comment. It seemed harmless enough in the moment, but taking the broader view, the potential impact of the dog is what really matters, at least in terms of my enjoyment of the quail.
The quail know a predator when they meet one. A dog, a bobcat, the reaction is probably the same. But then, that is my judgment and I am a human. Is it my sense of the quails' sense of order being disrupted that troubles me, that dogs are not creatures the quail grew up fearing? In the quails' world, am I imagining there might be no slot for the dog just as in my world there is no slot for a little green man from Mars? Do dogs unhinge the quails' sanity or are quail more sophisticated than that?
I suspect that they are. The philosophy of keeping dogs off Ranch trails originates with humans and seems meant to further human ends while at the same time preserving nature.
I agree with the notion of keeping dogs out. I really enjoyed my peaceful encounter with the quail. But I think dog-excluders should be honest about the reasoning behind their views.