For the week of February 3, 1999  thru February 9, 1999  

Warm Springs south slopes closed to skiers

Express Staff Writer

The Forest Service has closed of a portion of the Warm Springs Creek drainage to protect wintering elk from skiers and hikers.

The south face of the ridge, which runs along the north side of Warm Springs Road, is posted as closed from Ketchum to the West Fork of Warm Springs Creek, approximately 9.8 miles, according to a Forest Service press release.

"What is being closed is the area from the road, north to the ridgetop," said Ketchum District ranger Kurt Nelson. "We are basically closing the bottom of the canyon and the hillsides. People can still drive up Warm Springs Road."

According to the press release, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Forest Service officials have received phone calls in which people reported that skiers were skiing through bedded-down elk.

That is not healthy for the wintering animals, according to experts.

"If your presence causes an animal to move away from you, you are too close," Forest Service wildlife biologist Robin Garwood said. "The extra energy used from continually moving away from people could be what keeps the animal from making it through the winter."

Fish and Game conservation officer Lee Frost cautioned that the coming spring is a critical time for elk.

He said that by March and April their fat reserves are at "all time lows," and that unnecessary exercise precipitated by running from dogs, snowmobiles or skiers can lower the fat supplies to dangerous levels.

According to the press release, elk normally congregate in one or two areas in times of deep snow, but this year are scattered in "little bunches" all over the Warm Springs drainage.

Backcountry skiers, hikers and snowmobilers are asked to take binoculars to observe the elk and other wildlife from a distance in order to avoid disturbing them.

"The closure will remain in effect until the snow melts and elk have more areas free of snow that are away from roads and canyon bottoms," Nelson said.


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