Vail Valley wildlife volunteers needed | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley wildlife volunteers needed

Daily staff report
Newsroom@vaildaily.com

MINTURN — The U.S. Forest Service needs help monitoring seasonal trail closures and talking to the public about the importance of these closures for wildlife.

In partnership with the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, the Adopt a Trail Wildlife Ambassador program will kick off its second year beginning April 15. The next volunteer training is on Wednesday, April 10, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Holy Cross Ranger Station in Minturn. 

Spring is a critical time for deer and elk populations in the valley. Deer and elk will follow historic pathways to stopover sites to reach their high-elevation summer range. Animals use this time to recover from the long winter and gain enough fat from the spring green-up of grasses and flowering plants. Nutrient-rich spring forage is essential for females to successfully produce one or two young, which they will seek to raise in seclusion. Studies have found that disturbance to cow elk and does during this time of year has led to lowered calf/fawn survival rates. 

“Over the past two years, the wildlife and trails ambassadors have had a huge impact talking to the public about the importance of these seasonal closures,” District Ranger Aaron Mayville said. “I would like to extend a big thank you to the ambassadors and to the community for the continued support of this program — please continue to do your part and choose one of the many open trails to recreate on this spring.”

The wildlife and trails ambassador program has a proven success rate. Volunteers have come in contact with over 1,000 trail users since the program’s start in 2018. Last year, the Forest Service wildlife crew documented 44 people violating the spring closure on the North Trail over the course of two months. In 2017, almost 200 people were documented on a closed trail in just nine days. Hiking and trail running were the two main types of recreation observed during the closure.

Please do not use the following trails during the listed closure period. Gates and closure signs are located at all trail closure points.

• Knob Hill #2021: Closed through April 15.

• Whiskey Creek #2348: Closed through June 20.

• Eastern Hillside #2347: Closed through June 20.

• North Trail #1896: Closed April 15 — June 20.

• Buffehr Creek #2111: Closed April 15 — June 20.

• Son of Middle Creek #2136: Closed April 15 – June 20.

• Paulie’s Plunge/Stone Creek #2349: Closed May 15 – June 20.

• Two Elk #2005 (from the west entrance at the second bridge to the east end at the Vail Bike Path): Closed May 6 – June 30.

For information about other seasonal trail closures, open trails, and current trail conditions in the Eagle Valley, go to: https://www.vvmta.org/trail-closures// .

If you are interested in becoming a Wildlife Ambassador and attending the training session, email Michelle Wolffe, Adopt-A-Trail Coordinator, ecadoptatrail@gmail.com. For more information about Forest Service trails and recreation opportunities, call the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger Station, 970-827-5715, or stop by during business hours weekdays 8 a.m. -12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. 4:30 p.m.