Eagle County trails set for spring closures
Closures are essential for local wildlife herds
As snow gradually melts from local hillsides and trails, it’s tempting to grab the bike or leash up the dog and head out. That’s a bad idea on several local trails.
There are a number of trail closures set to begin in April and May. Like winter trail closures, spring closures are done in the name of wildlife protection. The coming spring closures last into or through June, which coincides with calving season for elk and deer.
As deer and elk populations have declined in the area, those closures have become more important in order to help either build or maintain herd numbers.
In the winter, elk, deer and bighorn sheep are on subsistence rations. Forcing those animals to do any more than they absolutely need to can be fatal.
In the spring, mothers with young are also vulnerable. Forcing them to move puts them in danger of starvation or makes them more visible to predators.
David Boyd, the public information officer for the White River National Forest, noted that weekends like the one just past creates danger of its own in that people want to get out into nature. The good news is that efforts including locked gates, trail cameras and volunteers to spread the word about trail closures seem to be working.
The Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance will hold an April 13 volunteer training. The session runs from 5:30 — 7:30 p.m. at Vail Coffee and Tea in Minturn. For more information, go to vvmta.org.
Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance Executive Director Ernest Saeger said that the first camera observations on the North Trail in 2017 showed more than 200 trail closure violations. That number dropped only about 30 in 2021.
Saeger credited that decline to education efforts that have included trail volunteers and work with homeowners associations.
Getting through to locals is essential, Saeger said. While trail use has exploded in the past couple of years, Saeger noted that it’s locals, not guests, who make up the bulk of violators.
Saeger said a number of people excuse heading out with arguments such as “I didn’t see anything out there.”
But, he added, it’s likely wildlife will see or smell you, whether you spot them or not.
“You’re impacting (those animals),” he said.
Devin Duval, a district officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said avoiding conflicts this time is crucial for calves and does. Mothers need spring forage to fatten up enough to lactate to nurse their young.
Duval said those human efforts are appreciated, but, like most things with wildlife, it’s hard to tell what impact the new efforts have had so far.
Aerial surveys over the winter didn’t find substantial animal populations where they’re usually expected in the winter. Those surveys also revealed various kinds of motorized and non-motorized human use in areas where people shouldn’t be. Duval said the strange way the winter set in drove animals to some unusual spots.
At the moment, though, it looks like animal populations are roughly even with numbers seen the past few years.
And, Duval said, “It’s absolutely necessary. I applaud the community’s efforts.”
Currently closed trails on the Eagle Holy Cross Ranger District include:
Knob Hill #2021: Opens April 16.
Whiskey Creek #2348: Opens June 21.
Eastern Hillside #2347: Opens June 21.
Everkrisp Trail #2122: Opens June 21.
Trails set for spring closure include:
North Trail #1896: April 15 — June 20.
Buffehr Creek #2111: April 15 — June 20.
Son of Middle Creek #2136: April 15 — June 20.
Paulie’s Plunge/Stone Creek #2349: May 15 — June 20.
Two Elk #2005: May 6 — June 30.
Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park and Vail’s Back Bowls are closed to human entry between May 6 and June 30.