The snowy winter has been a gift to reservoirs, but a scourge to the wild ungulates that roam the hills outside Durango. In light of the remaining snow cover, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management and the city of Durango announced Monday to extend wildlife closures in the area through the end of April.
Heavy snowfall has resulted in limited availability of viable food for deer and elk in higher elevation areas. As a result, big-game animals are prolonging their stay at lower elevations around Durango where there is more forage, which will allow them to restore their body condition.
“They're definitely stressed,” said Durango area CPW Wildlife Manager Adrian Archuleta.
- Bodo State Wildlife Area: Public access is prohibited from Dec. 1 through April 30. The Smelter Mountain Trail is open for foot access only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dogs are prohibited. Small game hunting is allowed south of County Road 210.
- Perins Peak State Wildlife Area: Public access is prohibited from Dec. 1 through April 30. However, closures remain in effect through July 31 in areas east of La Plata County Road 208.
- Big Canyon and Sale Barn trailheads off U.S. Highway 160 are closed to all public use.
- South Rim trail, including portions of Sidewinder and Cowboy trails on BLM property accessed from Carbon Junction trail or Crites Connection.
- Grandview BLM trails accessed from Three Springs.
- Animas City Mountain upper loop trails.
- All upper trails as marked in the Twin Buttes open space area.
The standard seasonal closures were last extended through the end of April in 2019. Archuleta said other regions in the state have, on occasion, extended closures past April, but that such an extension would be unprecedented in the Durango area.
Archuleta said CPW officers will try to step up enforcement in the closed areas during the extended closures. The closures are well-documented by signs, CPW officials say.
“It's always tempting this time of year, especially as we start to get warm days, people are champing at the bit to get out,” Archuleta said. “And so we continue to ask people to respect these closures – with these extended closures, it’s a couple more weeks and it's tough to swallow but it really does give the animals just that little extra bit of time to make their way up to transition range.”
Officials with CPW, the BLM and the city are urging those seeking outdoor opportunities to take advantage of alternative locations such as Horse Gulch, Overend Mountain Park, Dalla Mountain Park, Skyline, the lower loops on Animas City Mountain connecting to Dalla Mountain Park and the lower Twin Buttes trails.
“We recognize this has been a long, intense winter for humans, too, and we’re all excited to get back on the trails,” said city of Durango Natural Resources Manager Amy Schwarzbach in a news release. “We appreciate the patience and support of Durango trail users at this time. We have great alternative places to recreate and hard surface trails to enjoy for just a couple more weeks while snow melts and wildlife can move across the landscape and while our trails dry out to prevent damage to muddy trails.”