600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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February 03, 2017
Contact: Bob Dice, 509-758-3151

Sections of Chief Joseph Wildlife Area
closed until April to protect deer, elk

ASOTIN – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has closed two units of the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area in Asotin County to all use until April to protect wintering deer and elk from disturbance.

The closure affects the 4-O Ranch and Grouse Flats units, which represent 11,090 acres in the state wildlife area.

WDFW Wildlife Area Manager Bob Dice and District Wildlife biologist Paul Wik are reporting the worst winter conditions in the Grand Ronde River drainage in 20 years, with snow measured in feet and extended sub-zero temperatures.

"Deer and elk observed in this area have physical signs of undernourishment, including exposed hip bones and eating shrub bark," Wik said. "We've already seen a few dead animals with no signs of predation. Conditions remain harsh, so we need to avoid disturbing these animals to boost their chances of survival."

Wik noted that feeding the animals is not useful at this point in the winter, because it takes too long for deer and elk to adjust to a change of diet. Minimizing disturbances and related stress is the best option, he said.

The 4-O Ranch and Grouse Flats units are now off-limits to all use, including such activities as shed-antler hunting, skiing and snowshoeing. Motorized travel is allowed through those areas on roads maintained by the county, and the land between the Grand Ronde River and Grand Ronde River Road remains open for fishing access.

Dice and his staff are working to post signs about the closure throughout the area.

Temporary closures are also in effect in several other wildlife areas in eastern Washington to avoid disturbing wintering wildlife and – in some cases – keep those animals from damaging adjacent private lands.

These closures, most in effect from mid-December through April 1 or May 1, include parts of the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County, Asotin Creek Wildlife Area in Asotin County, L.T. Murray Wildlife Area in Kittitas County, Oak Creek Wildlife Area in Yakima County, and Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County.