There are four closure areas:
- Cabin/Silver Lake
- Metolius Winter Range
- Opine Travel Management Area
- Tumalo Winter Range
Motorized vehicles like snowmobiles and e-bikes are not allowed in these areas during the closures. The closures last through March 31.
“Winter range is found predominantly in lower elevations of central Oregon and is extremely important to elk and mule deer survival,” the Forest Service said in a statement. “Winter ranges usually have minimal amounts of snow cover and provide vegetation for forage, hiding cover, and protection from the weather. In Oregon, elk and mule deer migrate, often long distances, to lower elevations to escape or minimize exposure to snow cover.”
The U.S. Forest Service says local mule deer populations have declined 56% between 2004 and 2021.
“Human disturbance of deer and elk during the winter can cause the animals to flee which expends energy from the reserves they’re relying on to survive through winter and to successfully provide for young in the spring. By respecting winter range closures, the public can reduce impacts to deer and elk helping to sustain existing populations into the future. Improving habitat quality for deer can preserve the functionality of traditional migratory routes and reduce impacts with nuisance deer in town resulting in more healthy and productive deer populations,” the Forest Service said.