The message Thursday from the Bureau of Land Management: Please hold off for two weeks before going into areas closed as winter habitat for elk and deer.
The closures will be vacated April 15, agency spokeswoman Shannon Borders said.
BLM and city of Durango lower-elevation holdings traditionally are closed to the public from sometime in December to April 15 to give hundreds of deer and elk a respite from deep snow in the high country.
The off-limits areas are Perins Peak State Wildlife Area, Animas Mountain, Grandview Ridge and Twin Buttes.
“Law-enforcement officers are still finding people hiking or walking their dog in the areas,” Borders said Thursday. “It’s normal to want to get out when it’s warm and there are long hours of daylight, but the animals need the additional time.”
In January, frustrated BLM rangers had found so many scofflaws that they said there would no longer be a warning, but a $275 citation.
Borders didn’t have numbers Wednesday, however, to show if citations have been issued or whether the warning was all loud-bark, no-bite.
Cervids tax their energy just to survive in winter, Borders said. So they are vulnerable to disturbances during the critical period, she said.
Intruders startle the animals, forcing them to flee through snow. Dogs are particularly troublesome for elk and deer, Borders said.
The closures, she said, also avoid the displacement of herds into the Animas Valley along the U.S. Highway 550 corridor.