Methow Wildlife Area units close temporarily to protect wintering mule deer


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Photo by Justin Haug

News release

Media contact: Nicole Jordan, 509-906-6837

WINTHROP, Wash. – To protect the largest migratory mule deer herd in Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is closing five units of the Methow Valley Wildlife Area to public access from Dec. 15, 2023 through March 31, 2024.

Much of the Methow Wildlife Area land was acquired to conserve winter habitat for migrating deer. The temporary closure will protect crucial winter foraging habitat and support potential monitoring on the impacts of temporary recreation closures on winter deer use and movement.

The Methow Wildlife Area spans approximately 34,600 acres of WDFW-managed land separated into seven units. The five units listed for partial closure include Texas Creek, Golden Doe, Big Buck, Methow, and Rendezvous. Areas to be closed within those units will be clearly marked with closure signs and maps detailing the closure.

The popular groomed trail system Methow Trails manages will not be impacted by this closure. These and other select areas will remain open to provide excellent fish and wildlife-related recreational experiences during the closure months.

"Human disturbance in winter range can result in deer unnecessarily expending vital energy reserves, which can directly affect survival and reproduction,” said Brandon Troyer, Methow Wildlife Area Manager. “This closure will reduce human disturbance to mule deer during the most critical winter months when available habitat and forage are more limited. We worked closely with the public throughout this pilot process to balance community access with wildlife management. We are committed to public engagement as we learn from this effort and plan for the long-term management approach.”

In May 2023, the Methow Wildlife Area Advisory Committee (WAAC) held a meeting to propose this temporary closure of the area. WAAC members generally supported the closure. WDFW also conducted a public survey - results show the majority of survey takers supported the closure.

The wildlife area consists of diverse habitats, including shrubsteppe, grasslands, and dry coniferous Ponderosa pine forests. Protecting these areas also benefits songbirds, mammals, salmon, and other wildlife. The area offers unique recreation experiences for visitors, from hunting to cross-country skiing, and wildlife viewing to horseback riding.

For more on WDFW-managed publicly accessible wildlife areas, please visit WDFW’s website
WDFW works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

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