A portion of Sky Mountain Park will be open to limited hunting for the first time this fall in an effort to thin the elk population that uses the open space as both a winter habitat and a migration corridor.
Allowing hunting on Pitkin County open space property will be a first for the Open Space and Trails program, according to Assistant Director Gary Tennenbaum. Hunting is prohibited on open space under the regulations that govern the program, but the management plan for Sky Mountain Park makes a specific exception to allow hunting on certain lands within the park. Allowing hunting will help limit grazing pressure in the area.
“Colorado Parks and Wildlife urged us to allow limited hunting to help better manage the elk herd when the plan was adopted,” Tennenbaum said.
Habitat improvement through the thinning of oak on the property is also a provision of the management plan.
The hunting will take place on about 1,200 acres in the heart of Sky Mountain Park — the public land that stretches between Snowmass Village and Highway 82 between the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys.
The management plan allows as many as five hunters on the property; they will be chosen through a lottery. Qualified hunters must have the proper Colorado hunting license, allowing them to hunt for a cow elk in the fourth season — Nov. 12 to 16 — in Colorado Game Management Unit 43.
Sky Mountain Park is closed Dec. 1 through May 15 to protect wildlife. The open space will not be closed to other uses during the hunt, but signs notifying the public that hunting is taking place will be posted at all of the trail-access points into the area, Tennenbaum said. While Sky Mountain users are restricted to the trails, hunters will be allowed off the trails to seek elk. No motorized access to the area will be permitted.
The lottery drawing will take place Aug. 27. Hunters who are interested in participating must submit their names and contact information via email no later than Aug. 22 at 5 p.m. Participants should email janet.urquhart@ pitkincounty.com to enter the drawing. Receipt of submissions will be confirmed via email.
Sky Mountain Park hunters must abide by all Colorado hunting laws and regulations. Sky Mountain Park hunting regulations can be found at www.pitkinostprojects.com by clicking on the link to the “Sky Mountain Park Management Plan.”