YAKIMA - The Mud Lake portion of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) Oak Creek Wildlife Area southwest of Yakima will be closed to motorized access starting Jan. 1 to protect deer on winter range.
Wildlife Area Manager John McGowan said the Mud Lake area, which lies north of Highway 410 and west of Naches including Cleman Mountain, is traditional winter range for mule deer because its south-facing slopes provide deer easy access to browse. Much of the area burned this year in a wildfire, so natural forage is extremely limited.
The area has been active with salvage logging operations since the fire. Because of the loss of forage in the fire, WDFW will provide supplemental feed for the deer in the Mud Lake area through this winter. Local snowmobilers have offered to help WDFW in this effort.
"Especially now, these deer don't need lots of people in that area disturbing them and ultimately moving them off their needed winter range," McGowan said.
Motor vehicles, including snowmobiles, are prohibited in the area. Those on cross-country skis, snowshoes, or other non-motorized transport can still use the area since their numbers are fewer and movements are slower and quieter.
WDFW held a public meeting at Oak Creek in November to explain the reasoning behind the closure.
The closure is posted at all road access points and will remain in effect through April 30.