The Routt National Forest is reminding the public to avoid using voluntary closure areas from Nov. 15 to April 15 in areas such as this one at Lower Bear Trail.

Photo by Matt Stensland

The Routt National Forest is reminding the public to avoid using voluntary closure areas from Nov. 15 to April 15 in areas such as this one at Lower Bear Trail.

Forest Service enacts voluntary trail closures in Routt County

Wildlife experts say several trail areas are key to elk survival

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Voluntary closure areas

The Upper Yampa Habitat Partnership Program, Colorado Division of Wildlife, and the U.S. Forest Service are asking people to avoid the following areas to help the elk who use the regions for winter feeding:

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

■ Hot Springs Trail (Trail 1169)

■ Lower Bear Trail (Trail 1206)

■ South of Steamboat Ski Area

■ 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

■ Greenville Mine area (Road 440)

■ Red Dirt Trail (Trail 1171)

*Spring Creek Trail (Trail 1160) seasonal closure is no longer voluntary. It is legally enforced.

— The region’s large elk herds are moving into their winter habitat, and local wildlife officers have responded by enacting voluntary closures to protect those areas.

The Upper Yampa Habitat Partnership Program, Colorado Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service are asking the public to avoid 10 local areas that are important to the animals’ winter survival.

The closure areas are regions where shallow snow allows elk and deer to find the food they need to sustain through the cold months.

“Wintering animals are much more sensitive to stress from disturbance because of the fact that animals spend most of the summer months and fall consuming food to build up energy to survive the winter months,” DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said. “Disturbances during the winter months … cause them to utilize that stored energy.”

He said that once they use that stored energy, they are more susceptible to die in March or April, when they’re hurting the most at the end of a long winter.

He said people who recreate in those areas are apt to scare the animals away from their preferred winter grounds and into areas where food is scarce.

Hampton said pets also are a major concern because dogs have a tendency to chase elk and deer, even when people might be more careful around them.

The Forest Service recommends that folks concentrate their winter recreation to suggested areas like Buffalo Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, Gore Pass, Lynx Pass, Bear River corridor (entrance to the Flat Tops) and Dunckley Pass. Other optional trails are the South Fork Trail, Forest Service Road 430/Scott Run, and Forest Service roads 486 and 488, near Hahn’s Peak Lake.

The voluntary closure areas are Swamp Park (Mad Creek) Trail, Hot Springs Trail, Lower Bear Trail, areas immediately south of Steamboat Ski Area, 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, Greenville Mine area and Red Dirt Trail.

The Spring Creek Trail (Trail 1160) seasonal closure is no longer voluntary and is being legally enforced, officials said.

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