Good news for folks who like to ski in Teton Valley Idaho hot spots like Teton, Darby, and Fox Canyons! Many of the places that were off-limits this winter to protect our local wildlife are now reopened to recreational use as of last month.
Winter range closures protect our local wildlife populations - including our native bighorn sheep herd - during the long and unforgiving winter months. Cold temperatures, extreme terrain, and deep snow combined with scarce food supplies and the dire need to conserve energy, make the winter months a stressful time for our local moose, elk, deer, and bighorn sheep. Backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing in critical winter ranges can lead to the dangerous use of precious energy resources that these animals require to survive the tough Teton winters.
Although backcountry recreationists are responsible for knowing where the winter range closures, winter habitat protections, and wilderness boundaries begin and where they can travel, oftentimes these boundaries are not obvious. Recreationists can unknowingly “poach” these closures and travel in areas where these animals are protected. Conflicts between wildlife and humans significantly increase the probability of dangerous, life-threatening stress for these animals, causing them to expend energy they need to stay alive throughout the winter.
Backcountry recreationists who observe closed winter ranges in the Caribou Targhee National Forest are helping our local wildlife populations – including keeping the Teton Range herd of native bighorn sheep from going extinct. And this is no ordinary herd. It’s a remnant, native population with unique genetics, and is a symbol of the Teton wildlands. But the Teton Range herd is imperiled and could go extinct on our watch if we’re not careful.
Greater Yellowstone Coalition is striving to bring down poaching incidents on the west side of the Tetons with our Don’t Poach the Powder West campaign. We’re working to educate and empower people who use the backcountry – skiers, snowmobilers, and snowshoers – to reduce wintertime stress on our local wildlife.
And we can’t do this alone. A big thanks to our great partners at Teton Range Big Horn Sheep Working Group, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, and other partners who spread the word about how we can all work together to protect our local wildlife herds and keep our bighorn sheep from going extinct.
We’ll keep you posted about how you can have your voice heard – and support the herd!
-- Allison Michalski, Idaho Conservation Associate