Snowmass area Seasonal Closures in Effect for Elk Calving
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. – The White River National Forest, Town of Snowmass Village, Aspen Skiing Company and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are working together to remind the public that critical elk calving occurs this time of year from Two Creeks to West Buttermilk. The annual closure and restrictions are in place currently and are in effect through late June. This year, the closure has been extended for one week in most of the area, including the Government Trail. Tom Blake, Sequel, and other trails in the Elk Camp and Two Creeks vicinity will be unaffected by this change. Trail users are advised to check the new restrictions before heading out.
“This annual closure gives cow elk solitude and free-range to raise their young,” stated Phil Nyland, Wildlife Biologist for the Forest Service. “Disturbance caused by humans and dogs is very stressful to elk giving birth and nursing calves. Disturbance may also lead elk to abandon their calves.”
Over the past five months, in coordination with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the White River National Forest conducted an evaluation of elk calving needs and solicited public comments regarding a proposal to change the historic closure for the area. The proposal did not include Tom Blake, Sequel, and other trails in the Elk Camp and Two Creeks vicinity where the restrictions would remain in place from April 25 through June 20.
“Our desire was to work with the community and partners to develop a closure that is science-based and has community support,” said Kevin Warner, Aspen-Sopris District Ranger. “In doing so, we found common ground. Folks want to protect elk and their calves, and feel strongly that we should all do our part.”
Elk have chosen to return to the Two Creeks – West Buttermilk area every year because the area offers water, forage and the seclusion they need to survive, birth and nurse without being startled or disrupted.
“This closure protects elk during critical biological functions that ramp up late April and extend to the end of June, said Kurtis Tesch of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. ”Since the local elk population is in decline and more information on factors affecting calf survival is several years away, a small increase in the time of restricted access is reasonable to allow mother elk and their calves to nurse, bond wean and become strong enough to join the herd.”
The proposal extended the closure time frame an additional week to allow late-birthing elk longer time to nurse and raise their newborn calves without disturbances that may cause elk to misplace or abandon calves, or injury to calves that struggle to keep up with their mothers. Comments in favor of extending the restricted period were received from 44 entities including partners such as Aspen Skiing Company, Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, Roaring Fork Horse Council, Pitkin County, the Town of Snowmass Village, individual trail users, nearby residents and the public.
This proposal also provided an opportunity for the Forest Service to align its restriction timing with Town of Snowmass Village Ordinances where the federal and Town boundaries overlap.
The closure includes the following trails:
- Tom Blake trail, Sequel trail and other trails in the Elk Camp and Two Creeks vicinity are closed April 25 through June 20. These trails and the surrounding area open June 21.
- Anaerobic Nightmare trail is closed April 25 through June 27. This trail and the surrounding area open June 28.
- Government trail #1980 and Sugarbowl trail are closed May 15 through June 27. These trails and the surrounding area open June 28.
Wildlife monitoring cameras have shown hikers, dog walkers, and cyclists recreating in the area illegally during the closure period. Violating the closure can result in a fine of up to $5,000 or 6 months in jail, punishable by Forest Service regulation. Violation of Town of Snowmass Village Ordinance also applies in Town limits.
Many other trails in the area are open during this time. Suggested alternative trails include the Highline/Lowline trails (open year round); Sky Mountain Park trails (open May 16); North Rim trail (opens May 16); South Rim trail (open year round); Ditch trail (open year round); Sam’s Knob and Alpine Springs trails; West Government trail; and Elk Camp work roads.