Winter closures protect critical habitat for a variety of species. Help protect wildlife this winter by understanding closures and recreating ethically in the backcountry.
Cold temperatures, extreme terrain, and deep snow are what we live for as skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, snowshoers, and winter recreationists. But these same elements, combined with a scarce food supply and the dire need to conserve energy, make it hard for wildlife, especially large mammals, to survive our long, cold, harsh winters. Winter closures exist to protect critical habitat for a variety of species.
Although the winter conditions listed above may feel far off with our recent warm weather, we know winter is right around the corner. Some winter wildlife closures started on December 1, others will start on December 15, and the N. Highway 89 pathway next to the National Elk Refuge has been closed since November 1. Check out the maps on our Don’t Poach the Powder webpage to learn more about closure areas and ways to recreate responsibly this winter.
Bighorn sheep are especially vulnerable in the Tetons, and have recently been the center of heated community debate (check out this great piece by local skier Hadley Hammer for more insight). The Teton bighorn sheep population has dropped nearly 50% in the last 5-10 years and continues to be threatened by human pressures, competition from other species, and habitat loss. Critical habitat for this isolated group of sheep overlaps with ski terrain throughout the Tetons and surrounding public lands. Recently, the Teton Range Bighorn Sheep Working Group released a strategy for protecting the bighorn sheep population and maintaining winter recreation opportunities. The strategy is outlined in the document “Recommendations from the Teton Bighorn Sheep and Winter Recreation Community Collaborative Learning Process,” and is a result of a years-long collaborative process between many stakeholders in our community. This issue has evoked passionate discussions and opinions and we applaud the efforts of the Working Group for promoting an inclusive, collaborative, and public process to come to compromises between recreationists and bighorn sheep conservation. We support the recommendations released (these are not yet formal closures) and look forward to working with managing agencies on public education and stewardship efforts through our Don’t Poach the Powder campaign.
Contact our Conservation Program Manager Chelsea with any questions or concerns regarding winter wildlife closures.