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041014 elk 1

Elk congregate around the summit of Mount Jumbo where they can find windswept grass overlooking East Missoula in the last week of March. A late spring has delayed wildlife movement into the high country as they wait for fresh vegetation to appear.

Missoula Parks and Recreation, in consultation with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, has extended Mount Jumbo’s North Zone winter closure to Friday, May 9.

The North Zone includes all areas north of the Saddle Road. The traditional opening date for the North Zone is May 1.

FWP biologists conducted an aerial survey of the North Zone on April 29 and counted about 25 elk in open areas, and they suspected there were at least another 25 hidden in the timber. Heavy late-season snowfall has prevented the herd from moving farther north to its traditional summer range, according to city conservation lands manager Morgan Valliant.

The winter closure protects elk from human and canine disturbance, allowing them to stay close to their food supply and conserve energy during calving season. The winter closure also helps prevent elk from becoming habituated to people and altering their natural behaviors.

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Mount Jumbo’s South Zone, including the Backbone Trail and trails near the “L,” reopened April 14.

Dogs must be under strict voice and sight control on Mount Jumbo, and leashed where posted. Pet owners are asked to respect conservation lands, adjacent private property, other visitors and wildlife by controlling their dogs at all times and removing their pet’s waste. Pet owners may not allow their dogs to chase, attack or harass wildlife or livestock on city open space. Free Mutt Mitts and loaner leashes are provided at trailheads.

For more information, call 721-7275 or visit missoulaparks.org.

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

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