Coinciding with an ongoing, multi-day snowstorm, many areas of lower-elevation federal land all around Jackson Hole will become off-limits to any human activity.
Sunday, which is Dec. 1, marks the front end of a 5-month-long period in which tens of thousands of acres of the Bridger-Teton National Forest are designated as winter wildlife closures. Those lands are as near to the town of Jackson as the hillsides around Josie’s Ridge, and extend all the way up and down the valley.
Besides Josie’s, areas of crucial wildlife winter range closed to all human presence though April include the KC trail, Wilson Canyon, the slopes above the Putt-Putt trail and the slopes north of the Game Creek trail. The national forest adjacent to the National Elk Refuge, including Curtis Canyon, is closed in its entirety. Some Munger Mountain slopes, hillsides above Hoback Junction and Camp Creek are off-limits, as is much of the land abutting the Gros Ventre Road.
A number of roads will close as well, including Fall Creek Road between Red Top Meadows and the base of Pritchard Pass, Gros Ventre Road above Lower Slide Lake, Shadow Mountain Road and others. See the full list of affected routes on the Bridger-Teton’s winter travel map. Use caution on roads that remain open.
“Oftentimes, visitors forget that there is no snow removal on forest roadways,” Bridger-Teton spokeswoman Mary Cernicek said in a statement. “As winter progresses, the mountain roads become drifted with snow and impassable. If not careful, an unsuspecting motorist could get caught on a drifted road or slide off into a ditch, and the vehicle could be stuck there until snowmelt in the spring.”
There are several parts of the national forest where leash laws for dogs take effect Sunday. Those leash zones include the parking and trailhead areas at Cache Creek and Teton Pass. Dogs must also be leashed on the first mile of the Game Creek trail/road and on the Putt-Putt trail, both of which abut designated wildlife winter range.
The purpose of the closures is to provide a place of refuge for winter-stressed wildlife during a time of year in which being bumped around the landscape consumes needed calories and can be lethal.
In Grand Teton National Park, there are two high-elevation winter closures targeting bighorn sheep that take effect Sunday. The head of Open Canyon, including Mount Hunt, Coyote Lake and Prospectors Mountain, is an off-limits zone, as is the top of Static Peak.
Grand Teton National Park managers close lowland areas along the Snake River and Buffalo Fork beginning Dec. 15.
On the west slope of the Tetons, a strip of designated winter range runs along the westernmost edge of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The mandatory closure area, which took effect on Thanksgiving and runs through April 15, includes forest directly east of both Victor and Driggs, Idaho. A voluntary bighorn sheep closure on the Tetons’ west slope includes Treasure Mountain, the Wedge, Mount Meek, Fossil Mountain and the north side of Fox Canyon.