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Elk Head CONSERVATION
Native fish, wildlife and their habitat
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On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

November 2007

Take advantage of bare trees and seasonal animal movements to enjoy the wildlife so many are working to conserve. Look for birds of prey in the Willamette Valley and central Oregon. In northeast Oregon, mule deer have moved on to winter ranges and, after the storms subside, head to the coast for the winter whale migration that begins in mid-December. Visit the ODFW Recreation Report to discover new Viewing opportunities every week.

Contents

RETURNING WHITE-TAILED DEER TO THE WESTERN LANDSCAPE

In the early 1900s, biologists believed Columbian white-tailed deer had disappeared from the western valleys of Oregon, victims of agricultural and residential development. But enough survived that, today, there are two self-sustaining populations—one in southwest Oregon near Roseburg, the other along the Columbia River in the Columbian White-Tailed Deer National Wildlife Refuge.

“The good news is we have two populations,” said Tod Lum, ODFW southwest region wildlife biologist. “The bad news is that they are concentrated in two separate locations, potentially risking the entire species to disease or a catastrophic event.”

To hedge the risk, Lum and his partners, are trying to expand the range of white-tailed deer by trapping, transplanting and re-establishing them in other areas of Douglas County. Over the three years he has been involved in the project, he has seen success.

“The transplanted deer are staying in their new locations and they have been reproducing,” he said. "One deer moved about 20 miles north into the Willamette Valley, which gives us a good indication of where they want to be."

Lum believes that to return the deer to their native range throughout the Umpqua, Willamette and Columbia Valleys, it will take a lot of work—more than just relocation. Habitat must be restored and linked. Hunters who are unused to encountering white-tailed deer must be educated. All Oregonians will need to understand the negative impacts of feeding deer.

Partners in the project include the Oregon Hunters Association, W.T. Yoshimoto Foundation, Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation and many volunteers who have helped in the baiting, capture, relocation and monitoring of deer. The Columbian white-tailed deer is a Strategy species.

Contact Tod, Tod.M.Lum@state.or.us

For information about the Columbian white-tailed deer, visit

Learn more about Columbia white-tailed deer

INVASIVE SPECIES IN THE NEWS

In November, the Statesman Journal invasive species series focuses on aquatic invaders—plants and animals—with a number of articles, slideshows and videos. In one video, Jim Gores, ODFW invasive species coordinator, demonstrates how to inspect a boat for aquatic hitchhikers; in another Mark Sytsma, director of the Center for Lakes and Reservoirs at Portland State University, talks about Egeria densa, an invader that chokes out native plants, degrades water quality and is detrimental to fish and other wildlife. Visit the website for a wealth of information on the challenges Oregon faces.

Statesman Journal Invasive Species website

REDBAND TROUT POPULATIONS MYSTERIOUSLY DECLINE

The Crooked River below Bowman Dam at Prineville Reservoir is managed as a national wild and scenic river—a place of natural beauty and abundant wildlife—so when redband trout populations dramatically declined in 2006, biologists were alarmed.

Now, Brett Hodgson, ODFW High Desert Region fisheries biologist, is on the path to finding out why. Without enough resources to take on the project, Hodgson applied for grants and partnered with Oregon State University to study the problem.

Redband trout, a subspecies of inland rainbow trout, are indigenous to the area. They represent a unique genetic strain, adapted to living in relatively harsh conditions of central Oregon. They are important to the ecosystem and are indicators of watershed health.

Partway through the two-year project, Hodgson is unwilling to draw any conclusions. “The redband decline is a mystery,” he says. “Surveys indicate the mountain whitefish population in this segment of the river has not been affected.”

Fortunately, solving biological mysteries is something Hodgson believes OSU graduate student Shivonne Nesbit and her team can do. Components of the research project include radio tracking both trout and whitefish to evaluate seasonal migratory behavior and habitat utilization; evaluating impacts of nitrogen supersaturation and gas bubble disease on the respective species; and conducting mark recapture surveys to determine population size, species relative abundance, size distribution and condition.

Funding for the project comes from the Conservation Strategy Implementation Grant program, the ODFW Restoration & Enhancement program and Oregon State University.

For information on redband trout.

NW SNOWY PLOVER RECOVERY TEAM REPORTS RESULTS

The Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover, a tiny shorebird that nests on sandy beaches, has been listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act for over a decade. During that time an Oregon and Washington interagency team has worked to aid in the recovery of the species. The results of the 2007 field season are being compiled now and results look good.

“In the early 1990s, we estimated there were only about 50 adult plovers along the Oregon and Washington coasts. At the end of the 2007 field season, we estimate there are about 210,“ said Charlie Bruce, ODFW Threatened and Endangered species coordinator. “One of the biggest challenges to ongoing recovery is to keep plover nests intact through the breeding season. Over half the nests fail each year due to a combination of factors.”

After that, biologists have to be concerned about the birds’ safety from interference as they feed along the dry sand areas above the high tide line. “Newly hatched birds are very precocious, they leave the nest within hours to search for food, and they can’t fly for about four weeks,” said Bruce.

Because the nesting season runs from March to September, a time of high human activity on coastal beaches, a large part of recovery planning depends on visitors respecting nesting and rearing sites. Individuals are encouraged to learn where on the coast plovers nest and raise their young. When near a known nesting area, follow instructions on posted signs, stay away from roped areas and keep dogs on a leash. A map of occupied and potential recovery areas along the coast.

In Oregon, snowy plovers historically nested at as many as 25 locations on the coast. Currently, there are only 8 nesting locations, representing a 68 percent decline in active breeding areas. Reasons for the decline of the species include poor reproductive success, resulting from human disturbance, predation, and inclement weather; loss of nesting habitat to encroachment of non-native European beachgrass; and human development.

Although this article only discusses snowy plovers along the coast, this Strategy species exists in both the Coast Range and Northern Basin and Range ecoregions.

In September 2007, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, issued a final Recovery Plan for the species.

A State Parks Habitat Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement is now available for public comment

See western snowy plover at an outdoor display at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport

CONSERVATION FUNDING MAY BE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK

As Congress and the White House work to close a $22 billion spending gap between the White House’s proposed budget and the appropriations bills passed by Congress, the $85 million State Wildlife Grants program may be on the chopping block. Although Oregon only gets about a million dollars of this total, ODFW has so strategically leveraged SWG funds, the loss of them would effectively gut the department’s Diversity Program and its ability to implement the Strategy.

In overview, ODFW would lose:

  • The ability to address invasive species that impact Oregon’s economy and environment
  • The ability to provide external partners and internal staff with grants to implement of the Strategy
  • The ability to collect the amount of information needed to prevent species declines and focus management efforts on at-risk species
  • The ability to implement the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan--both the effective wolf depredation response program and priority monitoring, research and management activities
  • Six-and-a-half positions that are directly tied to the Strategy; these employees oversee Strategy implementation, provide technical assistance to landowners and facilitate partnerships

Please contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to weigh in with Senate Interior Appropriations Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and House Interior Chairman Norman Dicks in support of $85 million for State Wildlife Grants. Your e-mail or call can make the difference at this crucial stage in the budget process.

Senator Gordon Smith, oregon@gsmith.senate.gov
Senator Ron Wyden, senator@wyden.senate.gov
Representative David Wu, District 1, david.wu@mail.house.gov
Representative Greg Walden, District 2, greg.walden@mail.house.gov
Representative Earl Blumenauer, District 3, write.earl@mail.house.gov
Representative Peter DeFazio, District 4, peter.defazio@mail.house.gov
Representative Darlene Hooley, darlene@mail.house.gov

Contact Martin Nugent, ODFW Wildlife Diversity Program Manager, for more information, (503) 947 6309 or martin.nugent@state.or.us

Send us news about Your strategy-related projects
Meg Kenagy, editor and Conservation Strategy communications coordinator

For information about the Strategy
Peg Boulay, Conservation Strategy and State Wildlife Grants coordinator

Contact Information
Meg Kenagy
(503) 947-6021
meg.b.kenagy@state.or.us
Oregon Conservation Strategy
http://www.dfw.state.or.us/conservationstrategy/

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