WESTERN, Wyo. (KIFI) – The Bridger-Teton National Forest is reminding you winter wildlife restrictions remain in effect until May 1, 2020.
The Forest Service says it is important all users understand the importance of observing the critical winter range closures.
Critical winter range areas have been designated as essential to the survival of wildlife.
When people access closed winter range, they cause animals using the area to become stressed or flee to new locations. This retreat requires animals, especially ungulates like deer, elk and moose, to use energy they cannot spare, and it usually places them in areas less suitable for grazing and/or browsing, preventing them from gathering the energy they need to survive. This leads to a weakened condition, which can have a direct effect on the animals’ ability to defend themselves, making them more susceptible to predation and disease, and can lead to future reproduction problems in individual animals.
Forest biologists also stress the importance of staying off freshly exposed slopes in and out of the closure areas. These muddy, tender slopes are prone to degradation from user traffic when wet. This type of degradation can lead to erosion problems that affect water quality, fisheries and the production of grasses and forbs used by grazing/browsing wildlife.
Remember, be responsible when using the great outdoors. Maintaining control of dogs through a leash or voice command is essential to minimizing impacts on wintering wildlife. It may feel as though spring has arrived, but winter is still on the ground in many areas. With cold temperatures and heavy storms still a possibility, your wildlife populations need your continued respect. Stay on designated travel routes and learn the location of closed critical winter range before heading out into the Forest. Bears are coming out of hibernation throughout the area so please be prepared with bear spray and follow food storage orders where that applies on the northern and eastern parts of the forest.
Spring is a good time to remember that we all have a responsibility to make conservative decisions when venturing out onto the Forest. Be sure to let someone know where you are headed and remember that creeks or roads, frozen in the morning may be soft and impassable after the temperatures rise. Additionally, have a plan for all waste, there are limited to no garbage services on the forest and many restrooms are closed or inaccessible due to the current conditions.
Bridger-Teton National Forest offices remain closed to in-person visitors to protect the public and employees alike, but they are doing their best to maintain the highest level of service through virtual means.