East Vail hikers reminded to respect wildlife and consider alternatives

This time of year is critical for maintaining East Vail’s bighorn sheep herd

This time of year is critical for East Vail’s bighorn sheep, according to a reminder from the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the town of Vail. As such, the entities are requesting that hikers stay clear of Booth Creek or Pitkin Creek trails for the next two weeks.

Bighorn sheep are particularly sensitive to disturbance during late spring, especially from unleashed dogs and hikers approaching too closely.

“Lambs are very small this time of year. When they are forced to run from real or perceived predators, they may be separated from their mothers or to run into dangerous situations like a high-running creek, and any stress can limit their survival,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Biologist Devin Duval.

“Respecting wildlife is an important part of hiking responsibly,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis. “Please keep your dog on a leash. If you see bighorn sheep, please do not approach them and consider turning around and visiting another trail instead.”

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep have experienced range-wide declines and are listed as sensitive on the Forest Service Region 2 sensitive species list.

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“We are fortunate to have this incredible resource so close to home, but the bighorns’ survival is very tenuous this time of year, they require space and time to grow up, before they move on into the Gore Range for the summer,” said Vail’s Environmental Sustainability Director Kristen Bertuglia.

The three entities request that residents and guests consider not hiking the Booth Creek or Pitkin Creek trails for the next two weeks to protect the bighorns and their young, and enjoy the trails again starting June 6. In the meantime, lower Bighorn and Gore Trails can be better options, provided they are not muddy, in which case hiking causes damage to the trails and surrounding areas.

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