Fairfield Ranger District closes area for wintering elk

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FAIRFIELD, Idaho (News Release) — Effective Dec. 1, the area along the South Fork of the Boise River drainage east of Featherville to Couch Summit and up Little Smoky Creek to Red Rock Creek will be closed to snowmobiles and other motorized traffic for the protection of wintering elk.

According to David Skinner, Wildlife Biologist for the Fairfield Ranger District, these roads are normally closed by snow. “Previous to 2000, the motorized closure went into effect when the snow was deep enough to physically block wheeled vehicles and cover elk forage,” Skinner stated. “December 1st is now the closure date reflected in the Sawtooth National Forest Travel Plan.”

According to Mark Fleming, Regional Wildlife Habitat Manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Jerome, motorized travel near winter-stressed elk could be detrimental to their survival, as it forces elk to expend energy reserves to seek security. This energy is desperately needed for survival. Repeated disturbance can result in death of the animals if these reserves are exhausted. Young animals and those in poor condition are most likely to be affected by these disturbances.

Vehicle closure signs will be posted east of Featherville where the snowplows turn around on the Ketchum-Featherville Road (Forest Road #227); at Couch Summit; on Little Smoky Road near the mouth of Red Rock Creek; and on the Buttercup Road in the Willow Creek drainage. Violators of these closures are subject to fines.

The Forest Service has made provisions to provide access to people owning property within the closed area. Permits are available for property owners who need to access their property in the closed area.

“There are many excellent snowmobiling opportunities on the Sawtooth National Forest outside the winter range closure,” Skinner added. “We greatly appreciate everyone’s cooperation in respecting this closure. The closure is in effect until May 1.”

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