Washington Wildfires Displace Deer

Wildfires will leave one of the Washington's largest deer herds without a place to go this winter. | credit: Flickr Creative Commons: Alan Vernon

By Courtney Flatt, OPB

Wildfires have ravaged more than a million acres across the Northwest. In central Washington, the burned landscape will leave one of the state’s largest deer herds without a place to go this winter, when deer like to eat bitterbrush and chokecherry.

Those shrubs will be hard for deer to find this year – with 25,000 acres of habitat scorched by fire, including parts of five wildlife areas.

State wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin said the so-called Carlton Complex Fire will affect feeding habitat for up to 10,000 deer.

“We’ve dealt with winter range burns before, but we’ve never had to do it on this scale,” Fitkin said.

That means many fawns and some adult deer could starve this winter. Wildlife managers are going to issue more antlerless hunting permits, possibly for up to 20 percent of adult does.

Wildlife managers will also temporarily supplement some feeding areas. They hope this will help draw deer away from crops and orchards.

Fitkin said feeding is a short-term solution.

“We really don’t like to feed to try to prop up animal populations for any length of time,” he said. “We’d rather see the landscape recover and have the animals in tune with whatever the existing capacity for the landscape is.”

Concentrating a large number of deer can cause more diseases to pop up. It also makes deer more vulnerable to predation and poachers.

Fitkin said deer could face a lack of winter range for several years, as shrubs slowly grow back.

Wild turkeys and western gray squirrels have also lost a significant amount of habitat.

Oregon wildlife managers say fires there have not caused major habitat problems, although the South Fork Complex Fire is burning parts of the Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area in northeast Oregon.

That wildlife area is also a winter range for mule deer. Officials say deer there have more places to go this winter because the fire is not as large as those in Washington.

Endangered Species Act Turns 40: A Look At 3 Interesting Debates

Amelia Templeton, Earth Fix

It’s the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Much of our day to day reporting on endangered species focuses on the political controversies that arise from conservation strategies: wolf predation of livestock, water shutoffs in the Klamath Basin, mill closures after the Northwest Forest Plan.

We also do fair amount of reporting on the strange things people do to try to save individual species in peril: putting fish in trucks, removing a dam, relocating deer, and shooting one kind of owl to save another.

But what interests me the most are the big picture questions. Here are three questions conservation scientists are debating, inspired in part by this excellent conservation literature review.

1) Is It Time To Triage?

Governments and conservation groups have a limited amount of money to spend trying to recover endangered species. Those dollars are typically allocated to species judged to be the most at threat, the most ecologically unique and significant and the most charismatic. Scientists say tigers, pandas and spotted owls all benefit from a disproportionate share of conservation funding.

Researchers with the University of Queensland in Australia and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand have sparked a vigorous debate over the need to include two more criteria: the cost of management and the likelihood that an attempt to save a species will succeed.

The question of whether to stop trying to save some charismatic, highly imperiled species so funding can go to more help conserve more viable populations seems particularly relevant in the Northwest, where scientists are debating a potentially costly and risky campaign to save the spotted owl by shooting barred owls.

It’s also an idea that appears to have influenced local groups like the Wild Salmon Center, which has proposed protecting the Northwest’s strongest salmon runs and healthiest rivers as the most effective approach to salmon recovery.

2) Is There A Universal Minimum Viable Population?

Small populations are particularly vulnerable to extinction due to random catastrophe, variation in birth and death rates, and other factors. The idea of a minimum viable population was first introduced by biologist Mark Shaffer in a paper in 1981.

Getting an accurate population count of an endangered species is surprisingly difficult, and some scientists have argued for universal benchmarks for all species: 50 individuals for short-term survival, 500 individuals for the genetic health of a species, and 5,000 individuals for long-term viability.

However, many researchers have rejected the idea and argue that a species’ life history, size, environment and rate of decline all affect what constitute a viable population size.

In a recent study, authors Curtis Flathers et al, write that while marbled murrelets in the Northwest number in the tens of thousands, the species is still endangered by loss of nesting habitat and depletion of its food sources.

They offer the passenger pigeon as an example of a species that seemed abundant but ended up extinct.

“The extinction of the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), perhaps the most abundant land bird in North America during the 1800’s (numbering 3–5 billion individuals [69]), stands as a sobering reminder that population size alone is noguarantee against extinction.”

3) Should We Be Assisting Migration?

The Oregon Climate Change Research Institute has reported that Humboldt squid from the tropics have moved into Oregon waters, birds are migrating earlier and moving further north, and small mammals in Eastern Oregon are contracting their high-elevation ranges.

Forest ecologists are predicting that climate change could threaten tree species like coastal yellow cedar and alpine whitebark pine.

Some scientists argue that many species will not be able to move or evolve quickly enough to survive climate change, and are calling for human intervention to assist migration of threatened species through the creation of seed banks and other strategies.

Where do you stand on these debates? Let us know the endangered species stories you think we should be covering.

Dozens of Bambis Stage Sit-in on Road in Japan’s Nara Park

bambi_sit-in_japan-nara_park-youtubeSource: Indian Country Today Media Network

Blockades have been in the news lately, given indigenous resistance to fracking and other industrial invasions around Turtle Island.

But a different sort of blockade is happening across the Pacific at the tranquil Nara Park in Japan, about 300 miles southwest of Tokyo. It’s a deer park, meaning it is filled with gardens and deer—the Sika deer, Cervus nippon to be exact, also known as the Japanese deer—that are spotted and thus appear fawnlike.

“The park is home to hundreds of freely roaming deer,” according to the website Japan-Guide.com. “Considered in Shinto to be messengers of the gods, Nara’s nearly 1,200 deer have become a symbol of the city and have been designated a natural treasure.”

Shinto, the site explains, means “the way of the gods” and is the indigenous faith of the Japanese people, “as old as Japan itself.” It and Buddhism are the main religions in the country today.

Visitors can buy little crackers to feed the deer. Though the animals can get feisty if they think you’re about to hand over a cracker, they are for the most part tame, the site says, even bowing when offered food, as the website Kotaku.com notes.

In August the deer staged a sit-in of sorts on the road that bisects the park.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/11/08/invasion-fawna-video-dozens-bambis-stage-sit-road-japans-nara-park-152161

Squaxin Council Issues Quick Apology On Deer Killed By Canoers In Tribal Waters

Andy Walgamott, Northwest Sportsman

Reacting quickly to a disturbing video showing two canoeloads of men and a woman pursuing and killing a blacktail buck swimming in tribal waters of southern Puget Sound earlier this week, the Squaxin Tribal Council issued an apology, saying it is “deeply saddened” by the footage and called the chase “entirely improper and contrary” to its tribal beliefs and teachings.

The 12-plus-minute video surfaced on Facebook at midweek, shows one crewmember take a single swipe at the deer with his paddle, two others diving in to capture the animal, and then the apparent slitting of its throat alongside one of the two long cedar canoes.

It was shared around, a copy was made and posted to YouTube. We describe more about it here.

The council’s statement reads:

An Apology from Squaxin Island Tribal Council on Recent Events in the taking of a deer in Squaxin Island Waters.

“Recently, video footage of tribal people taking inappropriate actions in the taking of a deer in Squaxin Island Tribal waters came to the attention of the Squaxin Island Tribal Council. The Council is deeply saddened by the events depicted in the video, and wishes to make clear that such actions will not be tolerated, now or in the future. The actions of the individuals involved are entirely improper and are contrary to the beliefs and teachings of the Squaxin Island Tribe. The matter has been referred to the proper law enforcement agencies and the Tribe will take appropriate steps to address the actions of the individuals involved. As a Tribe, we are sorry that these actions occurred, and will take all steps necessary to see that they are not repeated.”

The statement was signed by all seven members of the council.

One of those members, Ray Peters, this morning said that he is a hunter who learned the proper way to harvest game from his family.

“I was always taught to respect animals and to honor what they give us,” he said.

“It was shameful,” Peters said of the “disturbing” video, and termed the deer “defenseless.”

“It does not depict the way we harvest animals,” he said.

Peters says the matter has been turned over to law enforcement.

“We’re not taking this lightly,” he said.

Officials are trying to identify the people involved. Peters said that while the canoes appear to be Squaxin craft, their paddlers’ tribal memberships have yet to be fully confirmed.

Mike Cenci, the deputy chief of enforcement for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, says that a search warrant was served on the pickup of one of the individuals — the man who allegedly slit the buck’s throat — at the man’s residence in another county.

Deer remains were found in a tote in the vehicle, he said. The truck was also seized.

He stressed that that man was “not affiliated with the Squaxin Tribe,” and that he was “well outside” his tribe’s ceded area.

Anyway, there is no tribal or state deer hunting season in that area that is currently open, he said.

And just as Peters was, Cenci was disturbed by the cruel pursuit and killing of the exhausted animal out of its element.

“We have a close working relationship with the Squaxin police and tribe. They immediately recognized that this act would negatively detract from a very important cultural event, and have taken it seriously from the moment it occurred,” Cenci noted.

The killing appears to have taken place during a practice run for this year’s traditional tribal canoe journey, coming up in August. The voyages were resurrected at the 100th anniversary of statehood and have continued every summer since. This year’s culminates at the Quinault Indian Reservation; First Lady Michelle Obama may attend.

The video sparked revulsion where it was originally posted on Facebook as well as on Hunting Washington, where it also stirred debate.

Protecting Your Landscape from Wildlife Damage

By Melinda Myers

They’re cute, they’re furry and they love to eat – your landscape that is.  If you are battling with rabbits, deer, groundhogs or other wildlife, don’t give up.  And if you are lucky enough to be wildlife-free at the moment, be vigilant and prepared to prevent damage before these beautiful creatures move into your landscape to dine.

Anyone who has battled wildlife knows the frustration and difficulty involved in controlling them.  Your best defense is a fence.  A four foot high fence anchored tightly to the ground will keep out rabbits.   Five foot high fences around small garden areas will usually keep out deer.  They seem to avoid these small confined spaces.  The larger the area the more likely deer will enter. Woodchucks are more difficult.  They will dig under or climb over the fence.  You must place the fence at least 12″ below the soil surface with 4 to 5 feet above the ground.  Make sure gates are also secured from animals.

Some communities allow electric fences that provide a slight shock to help keep deer out of the landscape.  Another option is the wireless deer fence.  The system uses plastic posts with wire tips charged by AA batteries.  The plastic tip is filled with a deer attractant.  When the deer nuzzles the tip it gets a light shock, encouraging it to move on to other feeding grounds.

Scare tactics have been used for many years.  Motion sensitive sprinklers, blow up owls, clanging pans and rubber snakes strategically placed around a garden may help scare away unwanted critters.   Unfortunately urban animals are used to noise and may not be alarmed.  Move and alternate the various scare tactics for more effective control.  The animals won’t be afraid of an owl that hasn’t moved in two weeks.

Homemade and commercial repellents can also be used. Make sure they are safe to use on food crops if treating fruits and vegetables.   You’ll have the best results if applied before the animals start feeding.  It is easier to prevent damage than break old feeding patterns.  Look for natural products like those found in Messina Wildlife’s Animal Stopper line.  They are made of herbs and smell good, so they repel animals without repelling you and your guests.

Live trapping can be inhumane and should be a last option.  Babies can be separated from their parents, animals can be released in unfamiliar territory, and trapped animals can suffer from heat and a lack of food and water.  Plus, once you catch the animal, you need to find a place to release it.  The nearby parks, farms and forests already have too many of their own animals and therefore they don’t want yours.

The key to success is variety, persistence, and adaptability.  Watch for animal tracks, droppings and other signs that indicate wildlife have moved into your area.  Apply repellents and install scare tactics and fencing before the animals begin feeding. Try a combination of tactics, continually monitor for damage and make changes as needed.  And when you feel discouraged, remember that gardeners have been battling animals in the garden long before us.


Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, features gardening videos, gardening tips, podcasts, and more.