For the entire winter, March is the time when the most mule deer are observed low in the foothills west of Wenatchee as they seek the first, nutritious green growth of the year, often referred to as “green-up.”
March also is the last month of the annual Sage Hills trail winter closure, a crucial time for deer and other wildlife to restore weight lost during the winter, said Von Pope, Chelan PUD senior wildlife biologist.
Pope and his colleagues at Chelan Douglas Land Trust, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance are urging people to respect the final month of the winter closure. The trail system will reopen on April 1, depending on conditions.
“We really appreciate the community’s help and cooperation during this final, critical month of the closure, Pope said. “Sunshine and drier conditions are a powerful draw for trail users. For the sake of the deer and all wildlife, we hope people will observe the closure and take advantage of other nearby trails until Sage Hills reopens.”
A decade of deer counts show that March is the month when mule deer concentrate in the lower foothills to feed on the emerging spring growth that fuels their return to higher elevations. In 10 of the 12 years, the number of deer almost doubles from February to March, he added.
Chelan PUD owns 960 acres in the heart of the Sage Hills and manages the area as a wildlife preserve as required by its federal license to operate Rock Island Dam. The Land Trust closes public access to the Wenatchee Foothills trail system to support the annual winter closure of the trail that crosses the preserve.
Chelan PUD, its Sage Hills trail partners and the city of Wenatchee are working together to remind people to stay off the closed trails. PUD security staff and others will be at parking areas and using other means to seek compliance with the closure.
In the meantime, people and leashed pets are encouraged to use other trails including the Apple Capital Loop, Jacobson Preserve, Castle Rock (no dogs) and Saddle Rock until the Sage Hills reopens next month.
For more information, contact Von Pope, Chelan PUD senior wildlife biologist, at (509) 661-4625, email@example.com; or CDLT Trails Program Manager Hanne Beener, (509) 667-9708, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about Chelan PUD at www.chelanpud.org and find us on Facebook.com/ChelanPUD and follow us on Twitter @ChelanPUD.
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