People are isolated, home from work and school and using the outdoors as an escape from the drudgery of the Stay-At-Home order. Utah’s wildlife is in a tenuous spot this time of the year and it’s important for people to stay away from wildlife management areas or face citations.
Conservation Officers with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources issued seven trespassing citations over the weekend of March 21 and 22 in the Hennefer/Echo area of Summit County. Utah’s wildlife and waterfowl management areas have always been protected but DWR Outreach Manager Mark Hadley says the sensitive areas are experiencing more human pressure now as people are anxious to get outdoors.
"These areas are closed to protect wildlife. We're encouraging people to not go into these areas that are closed and to find some other places that they can go and get outdoors and recreate. Ther's lots of other place that people can go."
Hadley says this time of year is critical for mule deer and migrating waterfowl. In Utah, mule deer are weakened by the winter and it’s difficult for them to find food. The wildlife management areas will open again on April 11 after the mule deer have transitioned out of winter range.
“What’s happening right now is they’re transitioning from a diet of what's called browse which is like bushes and twigs and things, to eating green grasses. And their digestive systems are really delicate this time of the year and so it takes a little while for the digestive system to be able to pick up nutrients from the food that they’re eating right now as they switch that diet. So that makes them even weaker.”
It is also the peak of Utah’s spring waterfowl migration. Some birds will stay in Utah and will begin nesting so the waterfowl management areas are closed until August 1.
“We’ve got thousands and thousands and thousands of birds on our waterfowl management areas right now. And those birds need to not be disturbed this time of year. They need to have a chance to just rest, to rest a bit before they continue on with their migration north. And in some cases, some of these birds will just stay here and they’re actually starting their nesting activities right now. They're picking out nest sites and things like that so it's really important that they're not disturbed.”
Hadley says the wildlife management parking areas are well marked and they will continue patrolling. Hadley understands the need to get outside but he asks that it be done responsibly.