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Idaho Fish and Game

Winter conditions extending into spring can be extremely stressful to wildlife


With late winter conditions extending into spring recreationists are reminded to be aware of big game on winter range

As the daytime temperatures start to warm in April, Idahoans are anxiously looking forward to spending time in the sunshine, often walking their dogs while exploring the opportunities that warmer spring weather brings.

However, when lingering winter weather extends into spring and an abundance of snow is yet to melt, Idaho Fish and Game is reminding recreational users that late winter and early spring can still be extremely difficult for wildlife.

Deer and elk have been surviving for months on the fat reserves that they accumulated the prior year, and those reserves are now depleted after a long, cold and snow-filled winter. Even when the snow starts to melt, it’s not the end of the wintertime struggles for these animals, as it still can take several weeks before new spring growth starts to grow and is available for wildlife. 

Mule deer on winter range
Mule deer on winter range.

To reduce stress, when recreating in late winter and early spring everyone needs to continue to use precautions that kept wildlife alive during the winter.

How you can help

  • Obey closure signs. Check agency websites to be aware of areas that are still closed to protect wintering wildlife. For example, BLM has extended seasonal restrictions in the Wood River Valley and in the Twin Falls District until April 30, 2023.
  • Recreate in an area without wildlife present. Big game animals spend much of the winter in lower elevations away from populated areas and on south-facing slopes where the snow isn’t as deep. Avoiding these areas, even if they are open, or delaying your trip until most snow has melted, and green vegetation has appeared can prevent undue stress on animals and help give them their best chance of survival. 
  • Control your four-legged hiking companion.  Even if your dog isn’t chasing big game animals, its presence may be enough to cause animals to flee and expend unnecessary energy they would not have otherwise used.

For more information about how to minimize stress to big game during late winter and early spring contact the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359 or visit the Wood River Valley Wildlife Smart Communities website.