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The U.S. Forest Service on Thursday issued the following press release urging hikers in East Vail to avoid local trails, be respectful and leash dogs during a tough time of year for bighorn sheep lambs:
Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials, along with the Town of Vail, are reminding hikers using the popular East Vail area trails that it is a critical time for the area’s bighorn sheep.
Bighorn sheep are particularly sensitive to disturbance during late spring, especially from unleashed dogs and hikers approaching too closely. From District Wildlife Biologist Devin Duval,
“Lambs are very small this time of year. When they are forced to run from real or perceived predators, they may be separated from their mothers or to run into dangerous situations like a high-running creek, and any stress can limit their survival”.
“Respecting wildlife is an important part of hiking responsibly,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis. “Please keep your dog on a leash. If you see bighorn sheep, please do not approach them and consider turning around and visiting another trail instead.”
“We are fortunate to have this incredible resource so close to home, but the bighorns’ survival is very tenuous this time of year, they require space and time to grow up, before they move on into the Gore Range for the summer,” said Environmental Sustainability Director Kristen Bertuglia.
The Town of Vail, CPW and the USFS request that residents and our guests consider not hiking the Booth Creek or Pitkin Creek trails for the next two weeks to protect the bighorns and their young, and enjoy the trails again starting June 6. In the meantime, lower Bighorn and Gore Trails can be better options, provided they are not muddy, in which case hiking causes damage to the trails and surrounding areas.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep have experienced range-wide declines and are listed as sensitive on the Forest Service Region 2 sensitive species list.