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Elk Head CONSERVATION
Native fish, wildlife and their habitat
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fawn
View young wildlife from a distance. Black-tailed deer fawn.
- ODFW Photo -
Click to Enlarge Photo
On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

May/June 2011

Beaver dams and downed trees contribute to stream health, improved fish habitat and biodiversity. Aquatic invaders are on the minds of many as boating season opens, and spring has yielded to summer.

CONTENTS

If you Lead a Beaver to Water Will it Stay?
Trees for Fish
You Can Help Stop the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species
Mandatory Boat Inspection Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk
Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area Viewing Route Reopens
One Small Thing

If you lead a beaver to water will it stay?

beaver
American beaver.
- iStock photo-
beaver tail
beaver release

Many people who restore rivers and streams are eager to put the power of nature’s own engineer, the beaver, to work doing what it does so well—building dams that create pools and wetlands that shelter migrating juvenile salmon and improve biodiversity and watershed health. Of course, putting beavers on the payroll is not easy and the subject has scientists and biologists asking questions and looking for answers.

A number of years ago, ODFW researcher DeWaine Jackson, worked with a southwest Oregon watershed council on a study that investigated the stream characteristics that beavers choose for living quarters. The research included over 700 stream segments and examined nine habitat characteristics such as the number, diameter and species of trees adjacent to the stream; stream gradient; channel width; and percent of open canopy.

“We examined the habitat characteristics beavers were using so we could analyze other potential sites to see if they might be suitable for beavers,” said Jackson. “The question I always had was: what would happen if we actually put beavers into sites where we thought they would do well. Would they stay?”

In 2009, he had a chance to find out. In a research project whose goal was to restore beavers to streams that were unoccupied by beavers, he and his team captured, marked and released 37 animals at 13 pre-selected sites in the North and South Umpqua rivers. Radio-tagged beavers were released from May to August and individuals were monitored for an average of 125 days, at least one was followed for 527 days.

The study analyzed mortality and beaver movement from release sites. Preliminary analysis shows that movement was variable—some beavers moved very little, some explored a bit and then returned to near the release site. The largest movement was eight miles.

“When the last transmitter quit working, about a quarter of our beavers had survived,” said Jackson. “We lost several to predation; not unexpected when you put animals on the ground without a dam, den or food cache. While they were generating the habitat they needed, they were vulnerable to predation.”

ODFW Fish Biologist Kim Jones is not at all discouraged by the 26 percent survival rate. “It’s worth it when you consider the millions of dollars spent annually on stream restoration,” he said. “The benefits of beaver dams are so great, we should look at using beavers where we can. I think they are vital to the recovery of coastal coho.”

Jackson also finds good news in the study results. “We know that restoration can be accomplished, but we have to expect high mortality.”

Contact DeWaine, dewaine.h.jackson@state.or.us

trees for fish

root wad
Paul Kennington helps place a root wad in Beech Creek, Grant County.
- ODOT photo-
Click to Enlarge Photo
tree removal
A tree with root wad attached can provide critical habitat for fish.
- ODOT photo-
Click to Enlarge Photo

Paul Kennington, ODOT Environmental Program coordinator, makes matches. Through his efforts, hazard trees are matched with organizations in need of trees for fish habitat restoration projects. The recipient is responsible for extracting the tree, root wad and all, leveling and replanting the site with native seed and placing it in a stream that is in need of restoration.

The program, called Hazard Trees for Fish Habitat, was started three years ago and is proving to be a cost effective way to help fish. 

“It’s working really well,” said Kennington. “When I get a call from someone who wants trees, I consult our maintenance crews and check our project list to see if ODOT has any trees that need to be removed.”

Trees are deemed to be a hazard for many reasons—they can be too close to a road or shading the roadway causing ice to form in winter or they can be dead or dying. Trees may also need to be removed for projects, such as climbing lanes and chain-up areas.  

“We have lost a lot of the complexity that used to occur naturally in our waterways,” said Kennington. “Our systems have been so altered that the large woody debris fish need is often missing.”

Downed trees form pools, retain sediments and provide overhead cover and shade. This results in high quality refugia, lower stream temperatures and higher densities of salmonids.

“Everyone benefits. These are trees that do not justify a timber sale, so we would normally remove and burn them,” said Kennington, who works out of La Grande but whose region covers the eastern third of the state. “I can generally find trees close to the stream projects. The program saves the state money.”

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla and Warm Springs reservations and the US Forest Service have participated in the program.

Contact Paul at, Paul.KENNINGTON@odot.state.or.us

you can help stop the spread OF AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES

Costly aquatic invasive species can shut down water bodies to recreation, destroy fish populations and drive up water and electricity costs. They get into rivers and streams in very predictable ways—on boats, trailers, waders and fishing gear—and everyone who recreates in Oregon’s waters has a part to play in keeping them at bay.

“It’s up to all of us. Clean your boat, buy an Aquatic Invasive Species Permit and stop for a boat inspection,” said Rick Boatner, ODFW Invasive Species Program coordinator. “The threat of aquatic invasive species is not a theoretical discussion. We inspected a boat in May that entered Oregon through Central Point and found zebra mussels, and both California and Idaho have done a number of decontaminations on boats already this year.”

Aquatic Invasive Species Video. Two minutes.
View larger version.

Over the summer, ODFW teams will be inspecting boats at rest stops along the highway and at boat ramps as part of a program to keep aquatic invaders out of Oregon’s waters. Teams will be based in Clackamas, Madras, La Grande and Central Point. So, if you see a “Boat Inspection Station Ahead” sign, get ready to pull off the highway. Inspections should take less than 10 minutes.

“We are especially concerned about boaters who travel in and out of states that already have established populations of quagga and zebra mussels,” said Boatner. “But, we also have plenty of problems here in the state with established populations of invasive weeds and New Zealand mudsnails that we want to keep from moving around.”

Motor boats, kayaks, canoes and drift boats will all be inspected.

“People don’t realize what a role these manually-operated crafts play in spreading mudsnails and aquatic weeds,” said Boatner. “In California, they found a kayak with quagga mussels on it.”

The inspection and decontamination program is funded by a legislatively-mandated Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit that is required for both motorized and non-motorized boats ten feet long and longer. For information on the program, visit the ODFW and Oregon Marine Board websites.

Buy a Permit Online or wherever fishing licenses are sold
Aquatic Invasive Species Inspection Program

Mandatory Boat inspection bill heads to governor’s desk

After passing the Oregon House and Senate, a bill requiring motorists hauling boats to stop at boat inspection stations will move to Governor Kitzhaber’s desk for his consideration. If approved, stops at aquatic invasive species check stations would be mandatory. Failure to stop could result in a $90 fine. However, by stopping for inspection or decontamination people are not subject to any criminal sanction. House Bill 3399 (pdf).

Ladd Marsh Wildife Area Viewing route Reopens

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Sandhill cranes courting. Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area.
-Photo by David Bronson-

The Tule Lake Public Access Area auto route at Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area has reopened after a seasonal closure, and if you haven’t stopped in for a visit while you are in the LaGrande area, you are missing a fabulous wildlife viewing opportunity. Currently, local greater sandhill cranes have hatched and young can be seen with their parents in meadows. Cranes can be seen from county roads in several locations. Wild turkeys can be spotted using the shrub cover in the Glass Hill Unit. Ring-necked pheasants are out in the mowed fields, especially early in the morning. Both white-tail and mule deer have been visible in meadows. Note: Water levels are very high in all wetland units. Directions and information. Watch Grant McOmie’s video of Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area.

ONE SMALL THING

During May and June, Oregon’s black-tailed, white-tailed and mule deer give birth to their young. Does leave fawns for extended periods to feed and so they don’t draw attention to their newborns. Enjoy the fawn you see from the distance, and leave it alone. Mother is near. Frequently asked questions about young wildlife.

PAST ISSUES OF THE NEWSLETTER

On the Ground newsletter archives

ABOUT THE OREGON CONSERVATION STRATEGY

The Oregon Conservation Strategy provides a blueprint and action plan for the long-term conservation of Oregon’s native fish and wildlife and their habitats through a voluntary, statewide approach to conservation. It was developed by ODFW with the help of a diverse coalition of Oregonians including scientists, conservation groups, landowners, extension services, anglers, hunters, and representatives from agriculture, forestry and rangelands.

EDITOR

Meg Kenagy
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
(503) 947-6021
meg.b.kenagy@state.or.us

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