MISSOULA – A section of Mount Jumbo is going to remain off-limits for a while longer.
Missoula Parks and Recreation has extended the Mount Jumbo South Zone winter wildlife closure beyond the scheduled March 15 opening date after consulting with state wildlife biologists.
City officials note the annual closure protects the 75 to 95 elk and other animals who spend the cold weather on Mount Jumbo's lower elevations. Most of Mount Jumbo is closed annually on Dec. 1 to protect wintering wildlife.
The South Zone, including all points south of Jumbo's Saddle Road, will open in the next few weeks until the elk move into the still-protected North Zone.The North Zone, which includes all points north of the Saddle Road, remains closed until May 1 or later each year. The "L" Trail and US West Road remain open all year.
According to FWP Wildlife Manager Liz Bradley, early spring is a critical time for elk because they are coming out of the winter in their poorest physical condition.
"For elk and deer, the spring green-up can't come soon enough—so they can start replenishing the physical reserves they lost over the winter. Most years, we see the hillsides starting to green up by mid to-late March, but that hasn't happened yet this year. The female elk and deer are doubly stressed as they try to push through these tough conditions carrying young they will deliver in late May and June." - FWP Wildlife Manager Liz Bradley
Beginning in early March, Missoula Parks and Rec staff regularly monitor spring vegetation status further north on Mount Jumbo. Resource managers balance elk presence, vegetation green-up, and spring weather forecasts to determine an appropriate South Zone opening date to protect overwintering elk, according to a news release.
Real-time updates on the South Zone reopening date can be found at the Conservation Lands Closures webpage.