Idaho Fish and Game Regional Wildlife Manager Mike McDonald presented new and consolidated guidelines to the Hailey City Council on Monday that he said would hopefully limit winter recreationists’ impacts on wildlife.
McDonald said the guidelines for winter management of wildlife would provide consistency across multiple jurisdictions, but not be legally binding.
“This would be a good first step,” he said. “It’s focused heavily on public outreach and education.”
City staffs from Hailey, Bellevue and Blaine County have been working with Fish and Game, the Bureau of Land Management, the Blaine County Recreation District and the Wood River Land Trust to develop the guidelines.
“Each jurisdiction has voted a variety of different plan notes related to wildlife, which results in inconsistent approaches to management,” a city memo states.
McDonald pointed out that ultimately, Fish and Game has authority over management of wildlife, but that actions by cities can help in its efforts, including signs to alert the public to wildlife concerns.
“After the big snow year in 2017, there were concerns about wintering wildlife and their interactions with recreationists,” he said.
Deer and elk herds that are stressed by deep snow and cold weather can be impacted further by winter sports enthusiasts, more than they would be in a dryer year, McDonald said.
The draft “winter wildlife closures and restrictions administrative guidelines” include an agreement to work together to make sure that big game species, including deer, elk and moose, are able to survive the winter without undue interaction with people.
The agreement stipulates that the Department of Fish and Game would monitor wildlife-sensitive areas and make recommendations on seasonal closures.
“Recreational use can be incompatible with wintering wildlife,” the draft agreement states. “Wintering wildlife benefit when the habitat is free of interactions with humans and pets.”
McDonald said the draft agreement will be circulated to other municipalities in the Wood River Valley. He said no “hard date” for winter closures has been determined by Fish and Game.