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040514 mount jumbo elk.jpg

Elk are seen recently near the top of Missoula's Mount Jumbo.

The elk closure on Mount Jumbo’s South Zone has been extended again, this time through Sunday, April 13, Missoula Parks and Recreation announced Friday.

The upper-elevation snowpack is still heavy, so elk are staying on Jumbo’s southern slopes to find food. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Vickie Edwards said late-season snowfall has delayed the green-up in areas to the north where the elk normally venture this time of year.

“The herd needs the habitat and undisturbed security of the South Zone to conserve and replenish their energy supply,” Edwards said.

The “L” Trail and the U.S. West easement road remain open, although dogs must be leashed and hikers must stay on the trail. Mount Jumbo’s North Zone remains closed until May 1.

In a news release, Parks and Rec officials asked people to call 9-1-1 to report closure violations and to take license plate numbers. Missoula Police Department public information officer Travis Welsh said officers are not patrolling trailheads, but they will respond to calls.

Violations of the closure are punishable by a fine of $500 and up to six months in jail, according to the city. Earlier this week, the conservation lands manager said he believes no citations had been issued in at least six years.

Police recently recommended against charging four people who violated the closure to snowboard and sled on the mountain. One triggered an avalanche that killed a woman whose house was hit by the slide, but an investigation showed the closure sign likely wasn’t visible at the time, and members of the group may not have known the area was closed or have been able to identify the trail given the condition of the mountain during the blizzard.

In a recent interview, conservation lands manager Morgan Valliant said Parks and Rec is talking about posting more signs, albeit in a judicious way. Valliant could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Last week, FWP counted 97 elk on the mountain, the highest number in three years. Mount Jumbo’s South Zone includes all points south of the Saddle Road, which is at the end of Lincoln Hills Drive.

The Mount Jumbo closure is mandated by the Mount Jumbo Management Plan and the City Conservation Lands Management plan.

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​Reach the Missoulian newsroom at @missoulian, at newsdesk@missoulian.com or at (406) 523-5240

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