Forest Service closures aimed at protecting wildlife | CraigDailyPress.com

Forest Service closures aimed at protecting wildlife

Matt Stensland

The U.S. Forest Service again is urging people to stay out of areas where wildlife hunker down for the winter, such as Lower Bear Trail.

— The U.S. Forest Service and a local wildlife official again is urging people to stay out of areas where wildlife hunker down for the winter.

The areas are popular with big game animals like deer and elk because they are their native winter range. There is less snow because of lower elevations and southern exposure to the sun. The animals also have access to food with mountain shrub vegetation, and ideally they will not be disturbed by humans. During the harsh winter months, wildlife need to conserve energy and could move to less ideal areas if there are humans around.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said this helps contribute to higher mortality rates in the herds.

“Those animals need a place to be left alone,” Haskins said.

Once the Spring Creek Trail reaches Forest Service property, there is a mandatory closure from Nov. 15 to April 15. This means people can be ticketed, but Haskins said the mandatory closure often is ignored.

“You probably can go up there any day and find someone violating it,” Haskins said.

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Other closures are voluntary, and those often are ignored, Haskins said. In the Mad Creek area, Haskins said he recently saw a person riding a fat bike with a dog that was not leashed.

Haskins said there are plenty of other places for people to recreate. On Forest Service land, that includes Buffalo Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, Gore Pass, Lynx Pass, Bear River Corridor (entrance to the Flat Tops) and Dunckley Pass.

“The National Forest provides valuable elk habitat, but this habitat is only preferred by elk if they are protected from human disturbance,” Hahns Peak/Bears Ears District Wildlife Biologist Becky Jones said in a news release. "If disturbed, they leave these areas and may end up in hay stacks, people's yards and crossing roads in the lower valley where they can cause problems. We are asking the public to please respect these closure areas this winter so that we can keep these animals on their native winter range."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

Seasonal closures on Forest Service land

Spring Creek Trail (Trail 1160) Mandatory closure on national forest

Swamp Park Trail (known as the Mad Creek Trail-NFST 1100)

Red Dirt Trail (Trail 1171)

Hot Springs Trail (Trail 1169)

Lower Bear Trail (Trail 1206)

Area between the Steamboat Ski area and Alpine Mountain Ranch

Greenville Mine area (Road 440)

Coulton Creek area (Road 429)

Sarvis Creek Trailhead

Silver Creek Trailhead

South of Long Park on Forest Road 225

North of Toponas on Forest Road 285

Areas adjacent to the Radium and Indian Run State Wildlife Areas