Not only was this winter a reminder of what winters used to be like in the Upper Snake Region, but it has hung on longer than normal, delaying typical spring conditions vital to animal rejuvenation.
On May 1, the Bureau of Land Management will open the west end active dunes of the St. Anthony Sand Dunes to motorized travel. Because of snow pack and wildlife wintering at the sand dunes, the area west of Thunder Mountain had been closed to human entry.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game had been feeding more than 800 deer at the sand dunes. The extended closure has allowed much of the snow to melt and vegetation to start to grow for the deer, elk, and moose that wintered on the desert.
Because spring conditions have been so slow in coming, many animals are still weak and have not yet been able to totally move onto greenup.
"Things are still pretty tough out there," regional habitat biologist Josh Rydalch said. "Lots of animals are still down low and it is important that people not get too close and harass them."
May 1 also marks the new campground fee increase at Egin Lakes Access Recreation Site. The camp area has 48 developed sites with picnic tables and fire rings. Some of the sites have shelters and electricity hook-ups. The site also has potable water and an RV dump station for camping users.
The new fee will be $60 per night for 10 large group sites with electricity, $30 per night for 18 medium group sites with electricity and $25 per night for 20 medium and small group or family sites without electricity.
"Even though the active sand dunes are open to the public for motorized use, snow patches are still covering some of the north facing slopes of bigger dunes," said Bill Boggs, outdoor recreation planner for the Upper Snake BLM Field Office.
Visitors to the desert are advised to use caution and to give the wildlife a wide berth. Female ungulates are at a critical stage as they come off a tough winter and prepare to give birth to their young. Any unnecessary movement caused by humans could weaken them beyond the point they are able to survive to give birth to this year's young.