MILLVILLE – The snow is gone, the gyms are closed and people may be trying to find alternative ways to entertain themselves and get exercise. Some people have tried to find their way outdoors to see wildlife. Beware, the Utah Division of Wildlife is warning people to stay out of places that are off limits, like Wildlife Management Areas, which are closed to the public.
There have been several trespassers in the Millville Face Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Cache Valley the past couple of days and they expect more people, said DWR spokesman Mark Hadley.
Conservation officers are citing trespassers entering closed WMA’s while animals are trying to recover from a hard and long winter.
Each of the closed wildlife management areas are clearly marked indicating they are closed because they provide critical winter range habitat for mule deer or waterfowl.
“With the recommended social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus, I think the need that people feel to get outside and away from others is higher than ever,” DWR Lt. David Beveridge said. “But, please remember that spring is a critical time for wildlife. It’s important that you obey the closures and not put wildlife at risk by stressing them.”
Matt Burgess, a DWR conservation officer in Cache County, said there are more people outside making it easier to make contact with them.
“Mothers and children are jogging and biking and they are doing it during the weekdays,” he said. “Most of them know they are trespassing.”
He said some just needed a reminder that there are other places to take a dog for a walk or hike.
“Some people don’t know what the management areas are so we try to educate them,” Burgess said. “Some are good with it and others are not.”
He said many of those trespassing are from the east side of the valley, some have even been cited in the past.
“We can have someone fix the fence and a week later it is tore down or cut,” he said. “We have been trying to get them go to the north side of Providence Canyon.”
The Bonneville Trail is open and the warmer it gets the less interaction hikers will have with wildlife, Burgess clarified.
This is the most critical time of the year for deer in Utah from now until April 11. They are weak after a long winter, deer are transitioning from eating a diet of browse (brush and twigs) to eating mostly green grasses. It takes time for their delicate digestive system to make the switch, and the deer aren’t receiving much nutrition from the food they’re eating.
“Combine a lack of nutrition with being weak after a long winter, and it’s easy to see how critical it is that people not cause the deer added stress,” DWR Regional Wildlife Manager Jim Christensen said. “For many of the deer, the added stress people put on them is all it will take to kill them.”
Spring is also a critical time for waterfowl like ducks, geese and other migratory birds in Utah.
“The spring migration is currently at its peak,” Rich Hansen, manager of the DWR Ogden Bay, Howard’s Slough and Harold Crane WMAs, said. “Thousands upon thousands of birds are on Utah’s marshes right now. While they’re here, it’s important that people not stress them. The birds need to feed and get the rest they need to continue their migration north.”
For some of the birds, Utah is as far north as they migrate.
“Many of the birds will stay here to nest and raise their young,” Hansen said. “Nesting is currently underway, and it’s vital that the birds aren’t disturbed this time of the year.”
Besides the Millville Face, DWR conservation officers also issued trespass citations at the following wildlife and waterfowl management areas: Henefer-Echo, Ogden Bay, Middle Fork WMA and the Public Shooting Grounds WMA, northwest of Corinne.
With many Utahns currently escaping to the great outdoors DWR officials urge people to follow the recommended COVID-19 guidelines.