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Killer sheepdogs and five other top terrors of the backcountry

Anyone thinking about abandoning the safety and comfort of the big city for a trip to Colorado's savage backcountry, take heed. Not only might you be braving the caprices of nature and the hardships of an untamed wilderness, but you could also encounter a particularly fierce breed of sheepdog.

According to this horrific account in the Durango Herald, the dreaded Akbash sheepdog from Turkey might even bark at you.

The aggressive dogs, which are increasingly being used on Forest Service lands and elsewhere on the Western Slope, apparently do a damn good job of protecting their flocks from predators. But they've managed to alarm some hikers and mountain bikers, leading officials in Silverton to fret about their impact on the tourist trade.

Mind you, there have been no accounts of people actually being mauled by these ferocious canines. The Forest Service doesn't even have any official complaints. But hikers and bicyclists have felt "intimidated" by their presence: "The dogs snarl and, according to some reports, chase them." Not exactly the same as being chased by a bear, a mountain lion, or one of the other predators the dogs are keeping at bay, but still. You can see how scary they are in this actual Forest Service photo of an Akbash.

Killer sheepdogs and five other top terrors of the backcountry

Up until now, we'd been thinking that the most dangerous aspects of the backcountry involved stupid drivers, bad skiers, idiot snowboarders, assholes on snowmobiles and the occasional avalanche -- not necessarily in that order. But the emergence of this Cujo of sheepdogs reminds us that almost any seemingly innocent feature of Colorado's great outdoors can be a source of terror and menace.

Here are five of the other most common (and most sinister!) hazards to be reckoned with on your next backcountry excursion:

5. Rocks

Killer sheepdogs and five other top terrors of the backcountry

Beware. There are more of them than there are of you. They may look harmless, even sedentary, but a mysterious force called "gravity" can send them tumbling down on top of you with no prior warning. Tragically, sometimes they are aided in this activity by clueless hikers trundling boulders off cliffs with no idea of what (or who) is in harm's way.

4. Trees

Killer sheepdogs and five other top terrors of the backcountry

Trees can fall on you, too. But they are far more likely to exert an inexplicable magnetic force that seems to attract speeding, out-of-control skiers and can lead to a fatal collision. Precautions can help, such as wearing a helmet and slowing down, but the startling rate of tree-person encounters suggests that many recreationalists prefer brain damage and possible death to being boring.

Page down to see our top three backcountry terrors.

3. Killer bees

Killer sheepdogs and five other top terrors of the backcountry

You can float like a butterfly, but if you get stung by one of these suckers, it hurts like hell.

2. Bigfoot

Killer sheepdogs and five other top terrors of the backcountry

Sightings are on the upswing, thanks to paranormal investigators such as Colorado's own Chuck Zukowski. No definitive word yet on the creature's predilection for human blood and flesh, but it's best to keep the Doritos and jerky in yeti-proof containers when camping in the San Juans.

1. Ultraviolet rays

Killer sheepdogs and five other top terrors of the backcountry

On a daily basis intrepid explorers forget just how powerful those tiny UV rays can be above 10,000 feet, even on partly cloudy days. They head up barefaced -- and return looking like they've been dunking for french fries in a deepfat fryer or using the microwave as a blow dryer. With the sun recently belching waves of plasma with the potential to turn us all into irradiated supermuscular freaks, it's time to break out the SPF 100 and reflective bumbershoots. Don't be a dumbass, fight the melanomas!

More from our News archive: "Hand-feeding Burger King food to bears? When it comes to stupidity, that's a Whopper!"


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