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Deer and elk management objectives under review

June 2, 2016

Mule Deer
Mule Deeer
Elk
Elk

SALEM, Ore.—Are ODFW’s goals for deer and elk populations too much, not enough, or just right? Now’s your chance to weigh in on that question.

ODFW is reviewing the management objectives (MOs) for Oregon’s mule deer and elk populations. Many of Oregon’s 67 wildlife management units have a population MO (the number of mule deer or elk desired in the unit during the winter) and a buck and bull ratio MO (the ratio of buck mule deer or bull elk observed per 100 females after the hunting season).

A population MO is not the maximum number of animals a unit can support, but a compromise that tries to maintain deer and elk numbers at levels compatible with primary uses of the land. The MO also factors in habitat availability, carrying capacity, and the level of damage to private property while trying to maximize recreational benefits (hunting and wildlife viewing) and preventing the serious depletion of wildlife.

Buck ratio MOs range from 12-25 bucks per 100 does, while bull elk ratio MOs range from 10-20 bulls per 100 cows. While it may seem strange to have that few males compared to females, only a few males are needed to breed a much larger group of females and produce the next generation of deer and elk. Note that adult male deer and elk tend not to spend much time around females outside of breeding season, and they are also more difficult to observe than females during winter. So the actual buck and bull ratios are higher than what is observed and recorded during surveys.

Tags and hunting opportunities are calculated partly based on this observed buck or bull ratio. Wildlife management units with a lower MO for buck or bull ratio maximize hunting opportunity while ensuring enough males remain for breeding next year. Units with a higher MO for buck or bull ratio may have fewer overall tags available but they tend to have more mature males in the population.

Population MOs are measured in late winter each year (February-March time frame) when ODFW biologists count populations on winter ranges. Buck and bull ratios (the number of males per 100 females) are measured during herd composition surveys also in late fall and/or winter, after hunting seasons.

Note that there are no MOs for western Oregon’s black-tailed deer because their secretive nature and thick habitat makes them extremely difficult to observe and count. However, ODFW has been developing a new technique to survey black-tails and estimate population size. Black-tailed deer MOs could also come in the future.

ODFW periodically reviews management objectives. The department first asked for some input from local review committees which included representatives from hunting groups, land management agencies, Oregon State Police, and other individuals concerned with deer and elk populations.These committees have already looked at the MOs and offered their input.

“We didn’t want to raise MOs to a level that is unachievable, or lower MOs where populations are not doing as well so they could be achieved under current conditions,” said Doug Cottam, ODFW South Willamette watershed manager, who is managing the MO review for the agency. “There is broad support for maintaining or increasing the current level of hunting opportunity.”

There are no proposed changes for most wildlife management units, but these maps and tables show the units where either ODFW or a local review committee has recommended changes.

ODFW is accepting public comments on deer and elk management objectives until the Aug. 5 meeting when the Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to make a final decision. Email comments to odfw.wildlifeinfo@state.or.us or attend one of the Commission meetings where the topic will be discussed (June 9-10 and Aug. 5) and testify in person. The Commission will be briefed on MOs during their June 9-10 meeting in Salem. ODFW staff will be reviewing public comments and come back with final recommendations for the Aug. 5 meeting.

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Contact:

Michelle Dennehy
Oregon Fish and Wildlife
Michelle.N.Dennehy@state.or.us
(503) 947-6022

 
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