Winter backcountry closures in effect | AspenTimes.com

Winter backcountry closures in effect

Aspen Times Staff

Aspen, Co Colorado

The U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Division of Wildlife ask Roaring Fork Valley residents to respect the closure of some public lands as part of its effort to protect wildlife through the winter.

In particular, the Forest Service has banned dogs and set restrictions on recreation in the Avalanche Creek area, nine miles south of Carbondale. The seasonal closure has been in effect since 1993 to protect bighorn sheep that range there during the coldest months of the year.

The road into that valley is closed from Nov. 15 until May 1. The area north of the forest road is closed to humans and the entire area is closed to dogs.

“The low elevation, light snow-pack and presence of winter forage in areas like Avalanche Creek are what bighorn sheep need during this critical period,” said Phil Nyland, a wildlife biologist with the forest’s Aspen-Sopris District.

People, traffic and dogs can disturb sheep that are resting to conserve energy or feeding to maintain body condition.

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“Research shows that even what appear to be small reactions by sheep to these things can impact them over a period of months in terms of raised stress levels, increased metabolism and decreased food intake,” Nyland said.

The Forest Service usually catches several people a year who violate the closures, and Nyland suspects the agency would catch many more if the area was constantly patrolled.

Meanwhile, the state wildlife division’s seasonal closure is in effect at the Basalt State Wildlife Area from Dec. 1 to July 15. All activity is prohibited in the Basalt, Christine, Toner, Peachblow, Seven Castles and Schuck units. The closure doesn’t apply to Lake Christine or the shooting range.

“The winter months in Colorado can be extremely tough for wildlife,” said Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will, who oversees the Glenwood Springs area. “Animals need to devote all of their energy during the winter to gathering scarce food supplies.”

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