The local office of the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday issued the following press release on seasonal trail closures in the White River National Forest and the need to reduce stress on area wildlife this winter:
MINTURN, Colo. – Concerned about the increasing number of documented violations to trail closures in place to protect wintering wildlife, White River National Forest officials are emphasizing the importance of observing the annual winter closures to several trails on the Forest in Eagle County.
“Just the mere presence of humans and dogs cause deer and elk to flee, and that affects their ability to survive the winter,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Wildlife Biologist Jennifer Prusse. “If these animals are disturbed too often, they may shift to be more active at night or abandon the best winter habitat available. This means they face a greater risk of predation or starvation.”
The following trails are closed to all uses each winter to protect wintering wildlife:
• Everkrisp Trail #2122: Closed Nov. 23 – June 20 (opens June 21)
• Whiskey Creek #2348: Closed Nov. 23 – June 20 (opens June 21)
• Eastern Hillside #2347: Closed Dec. 1 – June 20 (opens June 21)
• Knob Hill Trail #2021: Closed Dec. 15 – April 15 (opens April 16)
Prusse stresses that people may not even see the deer and elk they are affecting. “Human scent can be detected by a deer or elk from a half-mile away, and they often leave the area before we even realize they were there.”
Last season, the Forest saw a significant increase in violations of winter trail closures in Eagle County. On the Everkrisp Trail near Minturn, for instance, violations increased eight-fold, from 10 people and two dogs in 2018/2019 to 83 people and nine dogs in 2019/2020. Deer and elk use of the area fell as human use increased.
To reduce the number of violations this winter, the Forest will be using a combination of ticketing by law enforcement rangers and education through the Wildlife Ambassador Program in partnership with the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance.
“We understand and support enjoying trails on the Forest, but please help wildlife make it through the winter by respecting the winter closures and using one of the many other open trails on the Forest,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis.
The Forest and VVMTA are recruiting volunteers to educate community members about the importance of these seasonal trail closures. They will be hosting a wildlife ambassador training online on Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
For information about other seasonal trail closures, open trails, and current trail conditions in the Eagle Valley, please visit: https://www.vvmta.org/trail-closures/.