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State wildlife area closed Feb. 1-April 14 to protect wintering mule deer
 
January 28, 2011

 

DAYVILLE, Ore.—State land on Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area will be closed to all public access from Feb. 1-April 14, 2011 and in future years.

The closure of 25,000 acres is meant to protect wintering mule deer as part of the Mule Deer Initiative, an effort to restore mule deer populations which have declined in Oregon and across the West.

Mule deer and other wildlife naturally struggle to maintain energy reserves in late winter. Minimizing human disturbances should improve mule deer survival and their overall fitness throughout the year.

Motor vehicle use is already restricted on Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area. But more and more people are hiking the area during the sensitive winter time period, in search of antlers shed by deer and elk.

“Late winter and early spring is when mule deer are most vulnerable because their energy reserves are low,” explained Ryan Torland, ODFW district biologist for Grant County. “People and pets put deer on the move and use up energy reserves that could otherwise help them survive the winter.

By mid-April, big game will be recovering from the winter and starting to move onto their summer ranges,” added Torland. “And shed antlers can still be found on the wildlife area at that time.”

Wildlife Areas Elkhorn (North Powder) and Bridge Creek (near Ukiah) are already closed to entry during part of the winter to protect wintering big game. Beginning this year, all lands west of Foothill Road on Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area (La Grande) will also be closed to entry Feb. 1-March 31 to protect wintering elk.

In its prime, nearly 30,000 mule deer wintered in the Murderers Creek Unit, but that has declined to an estimated 5,300 today. Severe winters, habitat changes that worsened conditions for mule deer and predation all contributed to mule deer’s decline.

The closure is one of a number of steps being taken to increase mule deer populations in the Murderers Creek Unit. ODFW biologists believe habitat is the biggest factor affecting mule deer. Juniper trees and invasive weeds like medusahead rye and cheatgrass have replaced bitterbrush, sage-brush and other forage that mule deer rely upon during the winter months.

ODFW is working with BLM, U.S. Forest Service and partner sportsman organizations like the Oregon Hunters Association, Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Mule Deer Foundation to improve mule deer habitat. Together, the groups have removed juniper trees on 2,600 acres in the Murderers Creek Unit, treated invasive weeds, planted shrubs and created food plots for mule deer. The habitat improvements should also benefit other game animals and wildlife species identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as species in need of conservation.

Beginning next year, the Murderers Creek-Flagtail Travel Management Area, which limits motor vehicle access to certain roads, will begin three days prior to archery season (instead of three days prior to rifle season) to further decrease disturbance to mule deer and other wildlife. This is one of more than 60 Travel Management Areas in Oregon that limits motor vehicle use during hunting seasons.

In other parts of the state where Mule Deer Initiative efforts are focused, ODFW is reducing predator populations, increasing Oregon State Police presence, and reducing hunting pressure. For more information.

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Contact:

Michelle Dennehy (503) 947-6022 / (503) 931-2748 /
Michelle.N.Dennehy@state.or.us
Fax: (503) 947-6009

 
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