While the new Pilot Hill Wildlife Habitat Management Area (WHMA) west of Laramie is already popular with the public, recreationists are reminded of a seasonal closure to protect wintering wildlife.
The Pilot Hill WHMA provides critical habitat for elk, mule deer, pronghorn and numerous nongame species of greatest conservation need. To minimize disturbance to wintering wildlife, the Pilot Hill WHMA will close to human presence from February 1 to April 30 each year. Many WHMAs across the state are closed to human presence in the winter and spring when wild animals are most vulnerable to disturbance and stress.
During the winter months, big game animals need to conserve energy because the available forage they consume has limited nutritional value. Closures also reduce human impact on critical habitats and forage resources which are more vulnerable to damage during these seasons. The closure only applies to the WHMA; the Pilot Hill Recreation Area remains open all year. Signs are in place at WHMA property boundaries.
“Please give wintering wildlife a break by abiding to the closure dates and other restrictions on WHMAs and big game winter ranges,” said Robin Kepple, Laramie Region information specialist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “As the winter progresses, big game animals burn excess fat reserves which reduces body condition until new plant growth occurs in the spring. Typically, the nutritional value of spring forage remains too low to allow big game animals to start putting on fat reserves again until May.”
The Pilot Hill WHMA will open to all human presence at 8 a.m. May 1 of each year. Visitors to the property and surrounding Pole Mountain area should also keep in mind the seasonal road closures by the U.S. Forest Service to prevent road damage. Most Forest Service roads close Feb. 1 and remain closed until conditions allow reopening, usually around the end of May.
Beginning in fall 2021, the new Game and Fish Pilot Hill WHMA will allow for hunting opportunities, including pronghorn and elk. The Pilot Hill WHMA is one of 44 WHMAs managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The properties comprise approximately 450,000 acres of deeded, leased and/or cooperative agreement land. These areas were purchased or leased by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission as an investment to protect crucial habitat for a variety of wildlife including fish, big game, waterfowl, upland birds, and non-game animals