Dogs are permitted on the trail as long as they are not running at large.

Dogs should be leashed for four important reasons:

1. The Bluff Trail is not a designated off-leash area and is governed by the Wildlife Act which prohibits dogs running at large at any time of year. (Section 41 of the Wildlife Act) ,

2. dogs pose a risk to vulnerable flora and fauna species and the Bluff Trail is located within a area designated for wilderness protection,

3. because dogs can be injured by porcupine, coyote, and other animals in the area, as well as possibly being injured by hunting and trapping practices, and

4. for the comfort and enjoyment of other users. WRWEO has received numerous complaints about either overly friendly or aggressive dogs. People have complained about dogs that jump on them, damage their clothing, and eat their food. We have also had reports of people being bitten. Having dogs off leash acts as a barrier to those who are not comfortable with dogs because of personal or cultural reasons.

Best Practice in an Ideal Leave No Trace World:
Do not bring dogs to protected wilderness areas.

A Good Compromise to Reduce Harm and Minimize Impacts:
Keep dogs on leash. Pick up and carry out dog feces. Ensure that dogs stay on the trail and boardwalk and do not damage ground nests and sensitive flora such as carnivorous Pitcher Plants.

Harmful Practices which Damage the Wilderness:
Dogs travelling off leash can destroy sensitive flora, disturb wildlife, and bother other trail users. Uncollected dog feces, or worse: plastic bags containing dog feces, left on the trail or in the bushes pose a real problem both to the enjoyment of the wilderness for other hikers, and to the sensitive ecology of the area.

For off-leash recreation use designated off-leash areas such as: Sandy Lake Park (Bedford); Hemlock Ravine Park; Fort Needham Memorial Park; Point Pleasant Park; Shubie Park; and, Dartmouth Common.

To assist you in removing dog feces from the trail there is a bag dispenser mounted on a tree as you leave the Bluff Trail Parking Lot to access the Beechville Lakeside Timberlea (BLT) Trail. There are garbage containers located in the parking lot and on the BLT trail at Cranberry Lake just west of The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail head. There are no garbage containers located on the Bluff Trail and dog owners should be prepared to carry dog waste off the trail to the public garbage containers. Given the length of the Bluff Trail, this may mean carrying dog waste for several kilometres. 

Because of the growing number of users on the trail, it is important that dog feces be collected immediately and carried with you. Please do not leave dog feces (or bags containing it) on the trail or in the trees to be collected later. There is no way for other trail users to distinguish between dog bags waiting to be retrieved and those which have been completely abandoned. The presence of litter and garbage along the trail has a negative impact on the experience for other users and for maintaining good wilderness stewardship practices within this protected wilderness area.

Thank you for your assistance in maintaining The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail in accordance with Leave No Trace (LNT) practices. Your cooperation and LNT skills will help ensure the survival of this protected Wilderness Area and all the life within it.

Information on pets and how to keep them safe in the wilderness is available from the province here:

More information about hunting and trapping can be found here:

Coyote trapping signs on the Bluff Trail



10 Replies to “Dogs”

  1. I was bitten by a dog on the bluff wilderness trail in May. It was running at large ahead of owners. Owners didn’t even check on me. I went back with friends a couple weeks later to try to help me deal with the incident. We ended up meeting 18 dogs off leash that day – and two small dogs leashed. I believe people are not informed, and signage regarding keeping dogs on leash might help.

    1. Thanks for your comments and suggestions. We are trying to get proper signs up regarding all the information that people need in order to use the Bluff Trail in a responsible and legal fashion. You should report your situation to the Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-565-2224.

      1. Unfortunately, no amount of signage is going to change it! Unless there is some kind of immediate consequence or repercussion for the behaviour irresponsible dog owners will just continue it. In the long run, it’s these dog owners that ruin it for the rest of us. When the rules aren’t followed the last resort is to ban dogs altogether. Funny thing is, they’re typically the FIRST people to complain when they can’t take their dog!

        1. Margaret, I feel your frustration. I’m sure you can appreciate the problem it poses to a volunteer-maintained trail such as ours to ensure there are repercussions in cases like this. The best we can do is to direct people involved in incidents to the authorities.

          As for your doubt that signage alone will change behaviour, I agree! Additionally, responsible owners need to model the correct behaviour to everyone else they pass. That is, even if an owner believes they have their dog under control when off-leash, that sends the wrong message to other dog owners.

          So to all dog owners, please leash your dog and be an example to everyone else, as well as for the other reasons mentioned on the page.

  2. I am wondering on how safe it is to bring your dog on the hike and camp the night. Has there been any Incidents on coyotes or other wild animals attacking your self or your dog on these trails. I plan on doing 3 loops this summer and staying the night at one of the designated camping sites I am looking for reviews. Thank you

    1. There are many porcupines on the trail and some dogs have had run-ins with them. There are also lots of coyotes in the area but no reported incidents of coyote – dog interactions. Not many coyotes have been seen but their scat and tracks are often observed on all the loops. So this is a decision that you will need to make – many people bring their dogs onto the trail with no incidents. We ask that you keep your dog on a leash and in control at all times, please don’t let your dog harm the wildlife in the area or trample flora as there are some rare species in and around the trail.

      1. Since I wrote the above, incidents of dogs being attacked by coyotes have come to my attention. There have been incidents of coyotes harassing and attacking dogs on the nearby St. Margaret’s Bay Rails to Trails in September 2016 and April 2017. WRWEO asks that all dogs be on leash when on the Bluff Trail.

  3. It’s really upsetting because we just moved to this BEAUTIFUL area, but because a lot of dog parents are SO irresponsible and allow their dogs just to run around, we can’t enjoy it. I’m not going to put my 7kg dog at risk like that.

  4. I would like to respectfully correct you about a couple things- in Nova Scotia – according to the provincial Wildlife Act dogs are allowed to be offleash in all crown land – as long as they stay within sight and under control of their owner – it is only when they go out of sight of their owner that they are considered to be “running at large” – and that is dangerous for everyone- dogs included because it is legal for anyone to shoot them – so it is in the owners best interest to keep them within their sight – as for damaging the flora and fauna that is a false equivalency because there are moose, deer, coyotes, and many other animals larger than dogs tramping through forest – and wilderness areas – so trying to keep dogs out sing this excuse is not a valid one – it’s the same type of excuse as keeping a dog out of a store because a person might come in with “allergies” but letting people in who wear perfume – the excuse makes no sense – you are going to need a better one than that – also those same animals poop and pee – although I agree that all poop must be picked up – it’s just part of being a responsible pet owner

    I agree that dogs should not interact with other Park users – that is also being part of a responsible dog owner – but you can’t keep everyone out because of the sins of a few – that’s like saying people can’t enter the trail with a Tim hortons cup in their hand because other people have come in with those and left them on the trail – you can’t ban a whole demographic- just because they are visible and easily tagged – in other places that is called racism – and there are some people who just will not put up with that anymore

    1. Thank you for your post and for reaching out to us on what has become one of the most controversial issues that we face as the stewards and managers of The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail. These are complex issues that are nuanced and require an in-depth understanding of the laws, the community, the respective patterns of use by members of the community, as well as the ecological values and the impacts that have begun to accrue on The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail and surrounding ecosystems of the Five Bridges Lakes Wilderness Protected Area.

      We work closely with Nova Scotia Environment, Protected Areas and Ecosystem Branch and they assess each of our recommendations to ensure that they are accurate, in regard to the law, and that they appropriately address the issues that the trail faces. We will often advocate for the highest standards due to the high, some might say extreme, levels of use that we get on the trail – our estimates show that we get more visitors, both canine and human, annually than any other trail that goes through a Wilderness Protected Area in Nova Scotia at approximately 30,000 trail users per year.

      There might be a miscommunication in terms of the language that we have used for our advocacy for our recommended behaviours in regard to bringing dogs with you on the trail. If you read the section of our website that touches on this issue you will see that at no point do we make the case that it is illegal to have your dog off-leash. We state that:

      Dogs should be leashed for four important reasons:

      1. the Bluff Trail is not a designated off-leash area and is governed by the Wildlife Act which prohibits dogs running at large at any time of year. (Section 41 of the Wildlife Act),

      Stating that The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail is not designated as an off-leash area is true as the area, and trail, are not designated as an off-leash area as are many areas in Halifax. Designated off-leash areas are listed on Halifax’s Web site:

      2. dogs pose a risk to vulnerable flora and fauna species and the Bluff Trail is located within a area designated for wilderness protection,

      Unfortunately, the impacts of dogs off-leash, whether ‘at-large’ or within sight, have created impacts that have started to accumulate on The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail. These impacts can be most easily observed by checking out the first section of the boardwalk (around 100 m into the trail) and seeing the muddy ‘channels’ that have been worn on either side of the boardwalk, destroying the vegetation that once existed there and compacting the soil. These channels were not present years ago when the trail was not as heavily used and were clearly established by dogs, this being evident by the tracks within them.

      In regard to the comparison to native animals to the area, dogs can be considered to have an ecological impact that should be understood and addressed due to the following considerations: Dogs should not be considered as being on the same plane of ecological influence and impact as native species as they, as Canis lupus familiaris, are non-native. Therefore, their impacts cannot be considered as part of the ecosystem as you might with other species.

      Another consideration is that of the sheer numbers; we receive an estimated 5,000-6,000 dogs on the Bluff each and every year. This number vastly outweighs the 20-25 mainland moose that are estimated to be in the area and the fact that there are only about 8,000 coyotes in all of Nova Scotia. Furthermore, the moose and coyotes would be travelling over great distances, not spending all of their time in, or around, the Bluff Trail.

      3. because dogs can be injured by porcupine, coyote, and other animals in the area, and

      4. for the comfort and enjoyment of other users. WRWEO has received numerous complaints about either overly friendly or aggressive dogs. People have complained about dogs that jump on them, damage their clothing, and eat their food. We have also had reports of people being bitten. Having dogs off leash acts as a barrier to those who are not comfortable with dogs because of personal or cultural reasons.

      It should be noted that aggressive, or even “aggressively friendly” (as our Stewardship Program Coordinator, Mike, describes his own dog) dogs, are perhaps the most common complaint that we receive from trail users. Many users complain to us about dogs that approach them, or their on-leash dogs, while their owner is not in sight. This is not only illegal but also a concern from a community safety standpoint, both for dogs and for users. The other community consideration is that we have had reports from recent immigrant families wherein they state that they cannot be comfortable on The Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail due to the number of off-leash, and, especially, those that would be deemed to be ‘at large’, dogs. Therefore, as we want to foster an environment where as many different communities can feel comfortable on the trail as possible, additional considerations for other trail users should be made. In our advocacy for on-leash dogs, coupled with the legal requirement being that they must remain under control and not at large, we are still allowing for the dog-walking community to use the trail while feeling comfortable and safe (especially dog walkers with reactive dogs that they keep leashed) while also helping to enable new Canadians that are still adjusting to what must be quite a culture shock get out and enjoy some of the beauty that this part of Nova Scotia has to offer.

      We have also provided a comprehensive list of many of the fully designated off-leash areas in Halifax in the hopes that if folks are looking for that experience it may be best-suited in those locations.

      If you would like to learn more about how these issues affect the trail and how we can contribute to the well-being of the trail and the community who uses it please consider becoming a ‘Bluff Trail Steward’ yourself by attending one of our monthly ‘Steward Training Sessions’. Our next training session is scheduled to take place on Sunday, Nov. 4th.

      Thank you again for your feedback on this issue, Joan. It is one that is difficult to find a solution that works for everyone but our observations of the impacts on the community and surrounding ecosystems need to addressed. Through our decades of experience in trail creation, management, stewardship, observation, from our receipt of many reports from the community, our research, cataloging, and observation we have come to understand the issues quite well. Through these experiences we have come to the conclusion that advocating for dogs being on-leash is the best way forward for the ecological sustainability of the Bluff Trail as well as the comfort and inclusion of the whole community.

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