The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is reminding people to adhere to posted signs after 17 people were cited for trespassing at closed wildlife management areas in northern Utah in late March.
Each of the closed wildlife management areas provides critical winter range habitat for mule deer. And each one is clearly marked with signs indicating it is currently closed.
DWR conservation officers issued citations at the following wildlife and waterfowl management areas: Seven cited at the Henefer-Echo WMA; four cited at the Ogden Bay WMA; three cited at Millville Face WMA; two cited at the Middle Fork WMA; and one cited at the Public Shooting Grounds WMA, northwest of Corinne.
“With the recommended social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus, I think the need that people feel to get outside and away from others is higher than ever,” DWR Lt. David Beveridge said. “But please remember that spring is a critical time for wildlife. It’s important that you obey the closures and not put wildlife at risk by stressing them.”
Most of the wildlife management areas in northern Utah are closed until April 11. Waterfowl management areas in northern Utah are closed until Aug. 1. Read the signs posted at the WMAs for more details on the closures.
Why are they closed?
From now until April 11 is the most critical time of the year for deer in Utah. In addition to being weak after a long winter, deer are transitioning from eating a diet of browse (brush and twigs) to eating mostly green grasses. It takes time for their delicate digestive systems to make the switch, and the deer aren’t receiving much nutrition from the food they’re eating.
“Combine a lack of nutrition with being weak after a long winter, and it’s easy to see how critical it is that people not cause the deer added stress,” DWR Regional Wildlife Manager Jim Christensen said. “For many of the deer, the added stress people put on them is all it will take to kill them.”
Spring is also a critical time for ducks, geese and other migratory birds in Utah.
“The spring migration is currently at its peak,” Rich Hansen, manager of the DWR Ogden Bay, Howard’s Slough and Harold Crane WMAs, said. “Thousands upon thousands of birds are on Utah’s marshes right now. While they’re here, it’s important that people not stress them. The birds need to feed and get the rest they need to continue their migration north.”
For some of the birds, Utah is as far north as they migrate.
“Many of the birds will stay here to nest and raise their young,” Hansen said. “Nesting is currently underway, and it’s vital that the birds aren’t disturbed this time of the year.”
With many Utahns currently escaping to the great outdoors, make sure to follow recommended health guidelines and to recreate responsibly, officials say.