OGDEN — Cabin fever stricken Northern Utahns are turning to the outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic, but some have been charged with trespassing for trekking into sensitive wildlife areas.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officers handed out 17 citations for class B misdemeanor trespassing over the weekend to people found inside the boundaries of various wildlife and waterfowl management zones.
“It’s kind of our theory about why these citations have happened is that (DWR officers) have never seen people at the Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area in March,” Faith Heaton Jolley, DWR spokeswoman, said Wednesday. “People are stir crazy and want to get out.”
Winter range habitat for mule deer and seasonal migration spots for ducks, geese and other birds are threatened when people enter the closed areas, the DWR said in a press release.
“With the recommended social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus, I think the need that people feel to get outside and away from others is higher than ever,” DWR Lt. David Beveridge said in the release. “But please remember that spring is a critical time for wildlife. It’s important that you obey the closures and not put wildlife at risk by stressing them.”
Most wildlife management areas in Northern Utah are closed until April 11. Waterfowl management areas are closed until Aug. 1.
Jolley said the closed areas are clearly posted and people usually don’t even think of visiting them at this time of year.
“It’s hard. We get it,” she said. “People want to get outdoors and enjoy nature. We just really hope they will recreate responsibly and be considerate of wildlife.”
Deer are weak after a long winter and starting to eat mostly green grasses after a winter diet of brush and twigs, the release said.
“Combine a lack of nutrition with being weak after a long winter, and it’s easy to see how critical it is that people not cause the deer added stress,” DWR Regional Wildlife Manager Jim Christensen said in the release. “For many of the deer, the added stress people put on them is all it will take to kill them.”
Meantime, the spring migration for birds is peaking.
Rich Hansen, manager of the DWR’s Ogden Bay, Howard’s Slough and Harold Crane management areas, said multitudes of birds are on Utah’s marshes and need to feed and rest before migrating further north.
Some birds are done migrating and are nesting and raising their young here.
Citations were handed out at the Ogden Bay and Middle Fork areas in Weber County, the Logan area’s Millville Face area, Henefer-Echo in Summit County, and the Public Shooting Grounds area northwest of Corinne in Box Elder County, the DWR said.
A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.