Snowmass Village, Colo.—Wildlife monitoring cameras have captured an unprecedented number of purposeful violations of trail closures in Snowmass Village, with potentially damaging results to local elk populations.
Motion sensor cameras owned and managed by the Town of Snowmass Village Animal Services Department rotate throughout designated winter range sites. They were set up to capture images of area wildlife for monitoring and management purposes, but have captured more hikers and cyclists climbing and lifting bikes over signed and locked closure gates than in years past.
“Our trail system is a tremendous community asset, and we want to respect everyone’s ability to recreate. However, our goal is to balance our activities with an appreciation of certain areas as important habitat for wildlife,” said Laurie Smith, animal services officer for the Town of Snowmass Village. “We consider these areas so sensitive that we don’t even enter to patrol them.”
According to the Colo. Division of Wildlife, as cities throughout the state grow, new or expanding subdivisions often displace wildlife. In most situations, people and wildlife can coexist. The key is to respect the wildness of wildlife. Most dangerous and potentially harmful encounters occur because people fail to leave the animals alone.
This year particularly, a combination of poor winter range conditions and high recreational pressures due to lack of snowfall to date have limited areas where elk can find food sources.
“With elk on a declining diet, any additional stress or disturbance can have an impact to winter survivability, reproductive success, and health,” said Kevin Wright, local district wildlife manager with Colo. Parks and Wildlife. “The calf/cow ratios are poor and we’re already seeing the number of calves per 100 cows declining. Therefore, it becomes extremely important to protect the areas set aside specifically for elk migration and habitat.”
Per Section 10-29: Seasonal Trail Closures of the TOSV Municipal Code, it is unlawful of any persons to use by any means the following trails during wildlife sensitive periods, as follows:
- Anaerobic Nightmare Trail: April 25-June 20
- Government Trail east of Elk Camp Work Road: May 15-June 20
- Rim Trail northeast of Sinclair Road: October 30-June 20
- Sequel Trail: April 25-June 20
- Tom Blake Trail: April 25-June 20
The penalty for violation of the provisions is a fine of $50.00 on the first offense.
“We’re all here because we value the outdoors, so while the fine should be a deterrent on its own, we hope that by reminding the community on the importance of respecting trail closures, we’ll see fewer violations.” said Smith.