Resident and visitor participation in winter activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, running, mountain biking, and shed antler hunting continue to increase throughout the Wood River Valley. With increasing numbers of people and their dogs enjoying winter activities there is a need to balance recreation opportunities while minimizing human-wildlife conflicts.

Winter recreation can disturb deer and elk, displacing or preventing them from using critical winter range habitats, which are typically south-facing slopes throughout the Valley. Deer and elk must minimize expending their stored energy reserves in winter because of reduced available habitat, especially high-quality food.

Deer fawns and elk calves have less fat going into winter therefore it is especially crucial for young animals to have a secure place to spend the winter. Disturbance by humans and their pets can affect survival and reproduction, which can have direct impacts to herd populations.

Research has shown that people recreating off-trail and even on-trail can cause avoidance behavior by deer and elk which can result in animals having less access to resources such as food or shelter. While unintended, recreational activities can cause wildlife to move away from an area by fleeing from a perceived threat such as a person and/or dog. Recreating with dogs, especially dogs off-leash, can increase stress on deer and elk. Dogs resemble a coyote or wolf, both of which have been natural predators of deer and elk for thousands of years.

Seasonal restrictions
The Bureau of Land Management – Shoshone Field Office (BLM), Blaine County and Hailey and Bellevue city officials and other local entities realize that it is unrealistic to eliminate all recreation-related impacts to deer and elk during the winter months, however, impacts can be minimized. This can be accomplished by recreating responsibly in the vicinity of wildlife, and in some cases restricting the type and amount of use on wildlife winter range.

City and county officials and local non-governmental organizations, working with public land managers have developed a plan in the Hailey/Bellevue area to protect wintering deer and elk when conditions warrant. A Memorandum of Understanding has been approved by the BLM, Shoshone Field Office, Blaine County, Blaine County Recreation District, City of Bellevue, City of Hailey, Wood River Land Trust, and Idaho Fish and Game to cooperatively manage recreation on winter range in order to minimize human-caused impacts on wildlife.

Conditional restrictions in and around Hailey / Bellevue could include:

  • No dogs allowed, leashed or off-leash in specific areas.
  • Limit use to existing and/or designated public summer trail corridors.
  • Closing an area to human entry.

For more information, contact the jurisdiction or landowner identified on the seasonal restriction sign, BLM – Shoshone District, Blaine County, City of Hailey, City of Bellevue, Blaine County Recreation District, Wood River Land Trust, Idaho Fish and Game – Magic Valley Region.