Winter closures for regional public lands have been enacted.
The House Creek road has been closed to motorized traffic beginning Dec. 1 to protect winter wildlife range for elk and deer. Also the Chicken Creek area is closed to regular vehicles, but will be open to snowmobiles, snowshoers and skiers.
The Boggy Draw road has been gated at the trailhead to allow for skiers, snowbikes, and snowmobiles.
“Just like last year, we are directing snowbikes to the Boggy Draw area and are asking snow bikers to not ride at Chicken Creek Nordic park to avoid conflicts with the groomed ski track there,” said forest recreation planner Tom Rice.
A 14-mile snowbike loop trail is being planned for the Boggy Draw area.
Other wildlife closures in place Dec. 1 are the Railroad Grade area near Mancos and Forest Road 241 along Ryman Creek in the Glade Park area near Disappointment Valley.
The McPhee Overlook Trail above Dolores is not completed yet but the mesa above McPhee Reservoir where it will be is undergoing a wildlife closure plan with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The public is asked to avoid the area during winter months because it is also considered critical winter range for deer and elk.
“Deer and elk are at their most vulnerable during winter, and that range above Dolores is critical for their survival into Spring,” said Dolores district ranger Derek Padilla. “Giving them a break from human disturbance helps them save energy to get through the winter.”
More winter closures are in place in the Durango area as well.
Annual seasonal wildlife closures go into effect December 1, 2015, within the Grandview Ridge and Animas City Mountain areas managed by the BLM, the Twin Buttes open space managed by the City of Durango Parks and Recreation Department, and the Bodo and Perrins peak state wildlife areas managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to protect critical winter range for wildlife on public lands surrounding Durango. These closures remain in effect from through April 15, 2016.
“When folks hike, bike and bring their pets into this critically important winter habitat, it has tremendous impacts on wildlife survival, so we ask people to respect the closures,” said Connie Clementson. BLM Tres Rios Field manager.
During the winter months, deer and elk rely on many of these areas for forage and refuge, said BLM wildlife biologist Mike Schmidt. Disturbances can lead to decreased deer and elk health conditions, calves with lower survival rates and failed reproduction. Additionally, a decrease in mule deer populations across the state over the last two decades have made public lands increasingly important to maintaining deer and elk populations.
The closure of Grandview Ridge, Animas City Mountain and Twin Buttes areas prohibits all public access until after April 15, when deer and elk typically start to move towards summer range.
“The big message is that beginning this year there will be set closure dates from Dec. 1 to April 15 where before we were implementing the closure based on conditions,” said Mike Schmidt, a BLM wildlife biologist.