Trespassers and stray dogs on new property, how to handle

We recently bought a 60 acre property. It’s predominately wooded with trails throughout, and we have intentions of clearing a few acres for a barn/fields while leaving most of it natural.

The issue is that the property is surrounded by small (1/2 acre) properties on two sides and on the other two sides it has large tracts of land, some without residences. All told there are approximately 20 neighboring properties. It’s kind of a ‘unicorn’ location, close to town yet a large hunk that butts up against some other large tracts and near family and friends. It’s also absolutely stunning.

We put up trail cams to enjoy the wildlife and see what’s around before we move there, and a family member has been checking the cameras every few days as well as walking and snowshoeing the trails. So far we’ve seen deer, coyotes, many squirrels, rabbits, and a massive Fischer cat.

My family and husband hiked the property this winter and noticed snowshoe trails coming from one of the houses. The individual from that property had hiked clear across our property before turning back. We looked up the owner and they appear to hold a position in/related to the DNR with regards to fire safety.

This last week, we caught two dogs chasing deer on the trail cams. We caught them on multiple cameras over a timespan of 2 hours. Then on Sunday we saw our tracks from the day before had been covered by dog tracks, and we saw a person walking their dog on the trail cams just after we left the property to go eat an early afternoon Easter dinner.

I feel uncomfortable with people just wandering the property, particularly after we get horses there, and so a priority is to refresh the no-tresspassing signs. I also want to check with the previous owners to make sure a neighbor hadn’t been given permission to hike the property. If they have, it’ll be time for a discussion. On one hand, I want people to enjoy the land, but on the other, I don’t want people disturbing the horses, feeding, petting, etc.

But how do you handle the roaming dogs? Domestic dogs worry me far more than the coyotes I’ve seen.

In our area, “SSS” is really and truly a recommendation, but I don’t feel comfortable with that. It’s not the dogs’ fault the owner won’t keep them on the property, and any future dogs they would get would pose the same potential problem. I’m concerned about my horses/ponies safety with regards to dogs that will chase deer.

In full disclosure, we have a GSD that will 100% chase deer if allowed and can’t be left unattended by the horses or ponies because she hassles them, and we reprimand her for it, so I can’t be mad at a dog for following their instincts. THAT SAID, I also don’t want to deal with injuries/death from roaming dogs.

Legally, in our state, you cannot shoot dogs for chasing deer, but you can if they threaten you, your pets, or your livestock. I would have no issue dispatching a dog that was attacking our horses, but I don’t want it to get to that point.

Hopefully this makes sense, while I was typing this post, my husband sent me a video of the small area he’s clearing for the barn and at the end someone had driven up and was screaming “that’s f****** stupid” before the video cut out, so I’m a little distracted.

You don’t say how long you’ve been there, but maybe it’s time to meet some of the neighbors and have a chat about what you’ll allow on YOUR property. I’d also post some No Trespassing signs.


We bought the property last fall, but aren’t living there yet. Doing house renovations and need to put up housing for the horses. We hope to move in the next month or so. But yes, it’s definitely time to meet the neighbors. I’m more of an introvert though, and don’t relish the thought.

We have met two neighbors–the former land owner and one other. Neither of them appear to be using our property.


I feel you regarding the introvert part. In that case, I’d definitely practice what you want to say in advance.

If the former owner is still around, can you ask them if there were any existing agreements regarding people on the property? It’s too big a liability for me to be comfortable with people just wandering around.

Good Luck!


I’d be getting signs up ASAP. It’s definitely tricky when you aren’t living there though.

My parents bought their farm about 15 years ago. The previous owner was elderly and pretty much confined to the old house. My parents rented the farm to him for a couple years while they cleaned things up (lots of old cars, garbage, etc).
Hunting season was brutal the first couple years. My dad would be sitting in his deer stand in the middle of the 200 acres and random people would walk by and claim they had permission. The previous owner denied ever giving anyone permission, people were just taking advantage.
My parents called the police the second fall. We had spent the summer putting up new fencing on 30 acres. Those fields weren’t fenced at all before. Planted over 50 trees along the road and put in a new driveway. My dad drives up around 9 am one day to find two guys gutting a deer in the front field. They tried to claim that they were just retrieving the deer, but there was a clear blood trail and it was obvious where they had been sitting.
Luckily they haven’t any trouble with roaming dogs.

Anyway, if the new “No trespassing” signs don’t help then it may be time to start knocking on doors. Let people know that you’re the new owners and the land isn’t public. For safety reasons you can’t have people trespassing.


OP see if your state has a Purple Paint Law

Purple paint marks, according to the law, must be vertical and at least 8 inches long and at least 1 inch wide . Also, the law states that purple paint must be “placed so that the bottom of the mark is not less than 3 feet from the ground or more than 5 feet from the ground.

Currently, the following states have a “Purple Paint Law”, according to [Farm and Dairy] Louisiana, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and North Carolina. Florida, Idaho and Montana.


Put up no trespass signs in various locations. Fencing your property would be best but I know that gets expensive, maybe put some electric tape (doesn’t have to be charged just a marker so people know it’s your property) up in areas most likely to have people walking thru.


often there is a specific distance mandate, mostly ever 100 feet in forested areas, and no farther than every 1,000 feet in open grasslands … OP should check their state requirements to ensure the signage is enforceable

One issue will be attractive nuance such as pond or other “interesting” attraction on the property, usually no trespassing signs are not considered as sufficient when dealing with minors and attractive nuances.

When we bought our place most was unfenced, the local kids were using what is now our pastures as a race track… we had to fence the kids out.


You can’t just drop this part of the story and not tell us what was going on. This is crazy.

I too would start with new No Trespassing signs. I will add that I would probably makes sure it is obvious that they are new. If the existing signs are faded yellow, buy the orange signs so it is clearly a new and different sign.
Fill out the part with your name (last name) and phone number so it is again very obvious that these new signs are put up by the new owner, which will hopefully make the users realize that what they have always done is not OK.

It sounds like you have a relationship of some sort with the seller. Can you show them the photos of the dogs and trespasser to see if they know who it is? That might make it easier to target your door knocking at the right place.

When you approach them about their dogs chasing deer thru your property I would make it that you are concerned for the safety of their dogs and your livestock so for that reason you are not allowing outside dogs on your property.

Edit to add: Are there leash laws in your area?


Sorry! It took a while to get the story. Both DH and I assumed she was mad that we were cutting down trees, but it turns out she was looking for her father who was drunk and had called her to tell her he was lost on a logging road.

I don’t know how she found our (future barn) driveway–it’s nestled between two houses and isn’t well traveled–but she did see a log pile at the far end of it, before it curves, and assumed it was a logging road. She drove down it until it became impassable which is right at the barn site. I guess she was hysterical and scream-crying and extremely upset.

DH assured her her father wasn’t on our property and suggested another place to look. I sure hope she found him; or he found his way out. There are a ton of logging roads in our area and they’re often confusing and poorly marked. Even the loggers can get turned around.

Our relationship with the seller is… neutral. He’s one of 3 sellers (estate sale, basically), and the sale was not without drama/issues, but things seem amiable at best. He would plow the snow every other snowstorm for us, and seems to be a neighborhood ‘white knight’ when it comes to snow; also knows a lot about what’s happening in the area, so if we get a chance to talk to him it would be a wealth of knowledge. I have so many questions about the history of the property too.

Last summer and fall when we were in the middle of offering, etc, he was outside ALL THE TIME but lately we haven’t seen him around outside at all.

I love the sign/phone number idea. Purple paint isn’t a law in our state, but we do have a state wide leash law that says that dogs not on your own property must be leashed.


Unfortunately, we don’t have purple paint laws. I wish we did, as I want to clearly mark our lot lines with paint of some kind since it’s easy to wander off our property if you’re not careful, due to the shape of it. It would be very convenient to purple-paint our lines.

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If I had all the money, I’d fence the acreage along the two lot lines with all the residences.

I do not have all the money. I have money specifically earmarked for the barn, house upgrades, etc.

But we may have to get creative. I don’t know that any fence will keep a dog out, though, but human trespassers might be deterred.

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No ponds, nothing “interesting” like that, other than it’s pretty and has nice trails cut throughout from previous select-cut logging operations. I suspect that horses being back there will pretty promptly become an “attractive nuisance,” so I’d love to stop people from walking the property before we bring the horses back.


Does your new community have a Facebook chat page? If so, it sounds like time to introduce yourself. In a rural community your post will soon be a topic of conversation. Let everyone know that you are the new owner, and that they will see some construction on the property as you prepare to move yourself and your animals in. Make it known that you are aware past owners have permitted the community to use the property for recreation, as you have seen walkers, dogs, hunters etc. on your security cameras. You understand this was previously allowed, and do not want to shame anyone by singling out their trespass however you value your privacy, and want the community to know as the new owners you are ending this permission for people and their dogs.

It won’t take long for this message to run through the local gossips and become well known in the community.


my parents had a remote farm that people drove into the hay fields… we took a piece of plywood and drove about two thousand nails in then put it down in the pathway they were using, we knew where it was so it was not an issue for us… but it did stop All vehicles from coming back


Not only a new color and a phone number, but I would clearly put a date effective on it. They can’t claim they didn’t know if it says “effective 4/22/2022 forward…”


We have painted our perimeter trees with a blob of bright paint, visible from someone approaching from outside our property. It’s an easy visual. We also have metal No Trespassing/No Hunting signs nailed to trees (the dinky yellow plastic ones rot in the sun too fast). Most of my land is thick forest and hemmed in by woods on 3/4 of the perimeter. Hunting, 4 wheelers, etc, are common around here. I’m not fencing 32 acres of trees :wink:

In just a couple of places where there are old lanes or roads, we added a length of chain between trees and hung a sign in the middle so I don’t clothesline someone on a 4 wheeler. The above, plus trail cameras here and there, gave us a lot of comfort that it was obvious when and where someone was coming onto our place, ignoring signs.

The funniest one was some kids on dirt bikes who ended up in my back yard (super-wooded then suddenly YARD) and one of them had their chain come off. I heard them trying to fix it and asked them if they needed help. They FROZE. I said “I know you’re down there, do you need help?”

Scared voices

no ma’am…

ok well get it fixed and remember, you’re not supposed to be in my backyard, ok?

yes ma’am…



Since it sounds like most of the problematic perimeter is wooded, can you use trees as fence posts in addition to posting signs? Not for dog-proof or electric fencing obviously, but just a strand or two of wire? The determined trespassers would go through that, but I think it would weed out the more casual or ignorant ones. At the very least it would put them on notice that they’re trespassing.

The dog issue is tough with a large lot. I’m dealing with it now on what is a much smaller lot and even then it sucks. I’m sorry. Hopefully you spreading the no-trespassing word will eliminate some of the problems, but likely not all. IIWM I would install dog-proof fencing around the paddocks or as a perimeter fence around the whole paddock/barn area. It will be expensive, but the peace of mind is worth it.

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Add a date too “LION xxx-555-1234 posted 4/23/22”


Good point about the date. I had not thought of that.