Category Archives: Headlines

IDFG Radio-collaring Mule Deer Bucks For Survival Study


Fish and Game researchers want to learn more about mule deer buck survival during hunting seasons, including how the season structure, and hunter access and habitat types affect buck survival. Biologists are using specially designed GPS collars and ear tags to help answer those questions, and collars are being placed on mule deer during winter that will remain on bucks through the upcoming hunting season.


Researchers hope that understanding buck survival will help biologists better manage deer hunting and avoid over-harvesting bucks, as well as meeting hunters’ desires for the age class of bucks and types of hunting seasons.

“Most mule deer hunters would like to see bigger bucks, more bucks, and would also like to go hunting every year,” said biologist Paul Atwood, who is leading the study. “Those things are pretty hard to juggle all at once. Wildlife managers have been creative in how they structured seasons to try and reach those goals, but there are many confounding factors that make it hard to decide what affect you will have if you change a season. We are hoping to address some of those.”

How much the timing and length of a hunting season affects buck survival is one question they would like to answer, but there are more. Such as, what are the effects of controlled hunts vs. general hunts, antler point restrictions, etc. on survival? What about road densities and motorized access into a hunting area, or the amount of conifer cover, or steepness of the terrain?

Incorporating adult buck collaring into traditional doe and fawn collaring

Fish and Game staff and volunteers trap and collar mule deer does and fawns each winter to monitor survival, and they’re adding a sample of mature bucks. They will measure the survival of mule deer bucks in various hunting units, which were selected based on varying topography, conifer cover, road densities, and hunting season structures.

“We want units that compare and contrast really nicely based on those characteristics,” Atwood said. “For example, we want some units with general season opportunity and pretty open terrain and lots of motorized access. We also want other units that are controlled hunt only, but similar in terms of terrain and accessibility.”

Currently, bucks are collared in units 22, 32, 39, 40 and 41. Other units will be added on a rotating basis in the upcoming years and collars will be deployed in 16 units, which will cover a wide geographic swath of mule deer country.

“Most of our hunters are concerned with how many bucks we have and the quality of those that are out there,” Atwood said. “There are lots of different opinions on how good or bad the mule deer hunting is in a given unit, and almost as many suggestions on how to make it better. This study will allow us to evaluate that scientifically, and provide us with the best data we’ve ever had on the survival rate for adult bucks.”

Overcoming challenges to monitoring adult bucks

For decades, Fish and Game biologists have used radio collars to monitor survival of mule deer fawns (including males) and does, and in recent years, upgraded many to GPS-based collars. But adult bucks pose unique challenges.

Biologists have used collars on adult bucks in previous studies, but the durations have typically been short. In 2019, Fish and Game researchers tested solar powered GPS ear tags, but found they were not suitable to their study.

Part of the challenge of collars is dealing with a buck’s neck, particularly during the fall rut, when the circumference of an adult buck’s neck can increase up to 50 percent for several weeks before shrinking back to normal.

Think about a wrist being like a buck’s neck, and the wrist of a person wearing wristwatch grows 50 percent without adjusting the band. That’s the challenge biologists face when fitting collars on adult bucks and keeping them there without causing harm to the deer.

Taking a longer look at survival

Researchers are also re-engineering collars on male fawns so they will stay on the animals six months longer. Traditionally, those collars were designed to fall off when the young buck reached about a year old so they wouldn’t become too tight as the buck grew. Biologists knew if a fawn survived its first winter, but when collars fell off during spring or summer, the fate of those young bucks after their first hunting season usually remained a mystery.

More time with a collar on will allow researchers to get a better understanding of how many young bucks survive their  first hunting season as yearlings, a group that often accounts for a large percentage of the mule deer harvest.

“Fawn winter survival rates vary quite a bit based on the weather and where they are located, but once they get to be a year and a half, it is about 85 to 90 percent survival throughout the year (unless harvested),” Atwood said.

Because collars placed on buck fawns are still expected to eventually fall off, researchers are also attaching special ear tags on the deer. The tags are intended to remain on the animal for the rest of its life, and researchers will rely on hunters to report the ear tags if they harvest a buck with one, and in exchange, hunters will be eligible for a reward.

“Most bucks, after they reach that age, they are most likely going to be harvested. At that point, a hunter — even three or four years later — can report that ear tag. Every male fawn we handle now, we will have a much better chance of figuring out what ultimately happens to them.”

ODFW Commission Denies South Coast Wild Steelhead Retention Ban

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission this evening again denied a petition to ban wild steelhead retention on 10 South Coast streams.

The petition from guide Harvey Young and several others and supported by the Native Fish Society targeted harvest on the East Fork Coquille, Illinois, Chetco, Elk, Pistol, Rogue, Sixes and Winchuck Rivers and Hunter and Euchre Creeks this winter.


The 4-2 vote followed lengthy public comment from over four dozen anglers, guides and others, many of whom used their allotted three minutes to make impassioned pleas one way or the other, and then discussion amongst the commission.

It also came after a 2018 petition was also denied but saw the commission reduce the annual limit on the rivers and creeks from five to three.

To a degree it was a debate of differing science viewpoints.

ODFW staff had recommended to deny the  petition, saying there was no conservation concern that needed to be addressed.

While steelhead stocks are reeling across the Northwest — WDFW this week decided against holding its hard-won catch-and-release fishery for ESA-listed wild steelhead on the Skagit and Sauk Rivers because of low expected returns — those from this part of Oregon tend to hangout in a different part of the ocean that hasn’t been as affected by The Blob as the North Pacific.

However, while ODFW’s juvenile steelhead population information appears strong, Commission Chair Mary Wahl worried that there was no adult steelhead info since 2015 before her vote to not support the denial motion.

With so much negative news for fish with a changing climate, Commissioner Greg Wolley wanted to err on the side of caution with his vote.

So hoped many of this afternoon’s speakers, many of whom were fishing guides, along with a girl named Mia who skipped school to support the petition — and drew praise from a commissioner who ultimately voted the other way.

Dylan Renton, a member of a family of guides, said that for those who wanted to kill a fish there were hatchery steelhead while wild winters should be released.

Others pointed out that their clients wanted to catch fish not kill them,  that there were hatchery fish for that purpose, and that the sustainability of the fishery was in their best interest.

Local anglers spoke about their long-term commitment to South Coast fish and fisheries and that the opportunity to harvest wild steelhead helped put food on the table for lower-income families.

Retired ODFW biologist Tom Rumreich, a legend on the South Coast, spoke to the chance to take home a fish as a way to ward off apathy about steelhead issues.

One thing was clear about this afternoon: a lot of people are not apathetic and that is a very good thing.

Especially with a deeper dive into South Coast fish management coming up.

Editor’s note: My apologies for the disjointed nature of posting this breaking news story after hours and as I filled it in with notes from the commission meeting and helped my wife prepare dinner and yada.


North Oregon Coast Beaches Reopening For Digging Razor Clams


The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) announce the opening of razor clam harvesting on the north Oregon coast.


Recreational and commercial razor clam harvesting is now open from the Columbia River to Tillamook Head (south of Seaside). Recent samples taken from the area indicate the marine biotoxin domoic acid has dropped below the closure limit. 

Recreational and commercial razor clam harvesting remains closed from Tillamook Head to the California border for elevated levels of domoic acid toxin. 

Bay clams, crab and mussel harvesting are open along the entire Oregon coastline.

For more information, call ODA’s shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448-2474 or visit the ODA Recreational Shellfish Biotoxin Closures webpage.

Razor Clam Digs Set For Next Week At Washington Coast Beaches


Razor clam diggers can return to ocean beaches for six days of digging beginning Jan. 21.

State shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved a dig on evening low tides after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat.


The approved dig is for the following beaches, dates and low tides:

  • January 21, Tuesday, 4:23 pm -0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • January 22, Wednesday, 5:10 pm -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • January 23, Thursday, 5:53 pm -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • January 24, Friday, 6:32 pm -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • January 25, Saturday, 7:08 pm -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • January 26, Sunday, 7:42 pm -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

No digging is allowed before noon for allowed digs, when low tide occurs in the evening.

“Weather and surf during our last opener dissuaded many from participating,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. “The good news is that this means there are still a great many clams out there for this and future digs.”

For a list of proposed razor clam digs on Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks beaches through February, please see our razor clam webpage.

Ayres said additional tentative razor clam digs for March and later will be announced in early February.

WDFW authorizes each dig independently after getting the results of marine toxin testing. Final approval of the tentatively scheduled openings will depend on whether results of marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat.

In order to ensure conservation of clams for future generations, WDFW sets tentative razor clam seasons that are based on the results from an annual coast-wide razor clam stock assessment and by considering harvest to date. To see videos of WDFW’s sustainable management work for razor clam seasons, visit our razor clam page.

WDFW is also asking razor clam fans around the state to weigh in on the perennial question: Which is better, clam gun or shovel? To register support for a favored digging method, clam diggers can post a photo or video, complete with hashtag #TeamClamShovel or #TeamClamGun on any social media before the end of the spring season.

Additional safety considerations are important this time of year. “Diggers want to be sure to come prepared with good lighting devices and always keep an eye on the surf, particularly at this time of year when low tides come at dusk and after dark,” said Ayres. “Diggers can also start gathering clams an hour or two before the tide, which on some days allows folks to enjoy daylight for most of their time on the beach.”

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2019-20 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at and from license vendors around the state.

Under state law, diggers at open beaches can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

After Building Hit, Target Shooting Banned At Part Of Wildlife Area Near Ephrata


Due to safety concerns, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will no longer allow target shooting from Road 12 of the Gloyd Seeps Wildlife Area Unit near Ephrata in Grant County.


WDFW received a complaint from a neighboring landowner that a stray bullet from target shooting hit one of his buildings on Dec. 21, 2019. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office investigated and confirmed the validity of the report.

“There isn’t a good area at the Gloyd Seeps Unit to direct target shooting,” said Rich Finger, WDFW lands operations manager, “There are several residences and outbuildings that are well within range of a rifle bullet and hunters and anglers heavily use surrounding areas.”


Finger also said the wildlife area unit has a long history of target shooting issues, including damage to signs and gates, and debris left behind by careless shooters.

People can report target shooting violations or safety concerns to WDFW Enforcement at 1-877-933-9847. To report an incident in progress, call 911.

“There are many safe places in the region to target shoot,” said Jim Brown, WDFW regional director for North Central Washington. “But chronic problems at the Gloyd Seeps Unit, including this latest incident, show that this isn’t one of them.”


WDFW has designated shooting ranges on the Methow, Asotin Creek, and Wooten wildlife areas. Improvements are also underway on designed target shooting locations on the Wenas Wildlife Area near Ellensburg and at the Swakane Wildlife Area Unit near Wenatchee. Funding for improvement projects came from the Capital budget and grants from the Recreation and Conservation Office, National Rifle Association, and Wenatchee Sportsman’s Association.

WDFW manages the 12,141-acre Gloyd Seeps Wildlife Area Unit as part of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area. The unit includes shrubsteppe uplands, basalt scablands, wetlands, and ponds, and supports a small population of Washington ground squirrels. The unit offers a variety of recreation opportunities, including pheasant hunting and a selective gear trout fishery on Homestead Lake.

The department owns or manages about one million acres statewide, with 33 wildlife areas and nearly 500 water access areas around the state. These public lands help sustain wildlife habitat and public recreation opportunities for current and future generations.

2019 Oregon Big Game, Turkey Reports Due Soon


Every hunter who purchased 2019 big game or turkey tags needs to report their hunt results by the deadline, which is Jan. 31, 2020 for most tags.


Hunters are required to report on each deer, elk, cougar, bear, pronghorn and turkey tag purchased—even if they were not successful or did not hunt. Sports Pac license holders need to report on each big game or turkey tag issued.

Hunters who fail to report deer and elk tags by the deadline will be penalized $25 when they go to purchase a 2021 hunting license. This penalty is assessed once, regardless of the number of unreported tags.

Hunters have a few ways to report:

  • Online via ODFW’s Licensing System, the fastest and easiest way to report. Login to your account and go to Outcome Reporting/Mandatory Reporting. Then click to License Year 2019 to report on your tags. If you have trouble getting into your account, use the retrieve User Name/Password feature or contact ODFW for your account information. Visit the ELS FAQ page for directions on getting into your account if you have never logged in before.
  • By telephone: Call 1-866-947-6339 to talk to an ODFW licensing customer service representative during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.- 5 p.m.). ODFW’s Licensing Department now has a callback feature to provide better customer service. When there are longer hold times, any customer who calls in by 3:30 p.m. can just leave their number for a callback while keeping their place in line.
  • At a license sale agent: New for 2020, hunters can now visit a vendor that sells licenses to complete their mandatory reporting.

Reporting deadlines are:

  • Jan. 31, 2020 for all 2019 hunts that ended by Dec. 31, 2019
  • April 15, 2020 for all 2019 hunts that end between Jan. 1- March 31, 2020

As of today (Jan. 15), nearly 226,000 reports have been completed and more than 247,000 remain to be done by either Jan. 31 or April 15. More than 195,000 of the completed reports were completed online, with the remainder taken by ODFW staff or license sale agents.

“The information hunters provide is used when setting controlled hunt tag numbers and hunting seasons,” said ODFW Game Program Manager Tom Thornton. “We really appreciate hunters taking a few minutes of their time to complete the report, even if they did not hunt or were not successful.”

ODFW used to get this data through phone surveys but these became more difficult and expensive as hunters moved or screened their calls. While reporting has been mandatory since 2007, reporting rates dramatically improved (from about 40 percent to 80 percent or more) when a penalty for not reporting was added in 2012.

Information from the mandatory reports is compiled and made available to hunters at ODFW’s Big Game Hunting Harvest Statistics page,

Chance to win special big game tag
As an incentive to report, hunters that report on time are entered into a drawing to win a special big game tag. ODFW selects three names each year and the winners can choose a deer, elk, or pronghorn tag. Hunters who win get to hunt an expanded area and extended season, similar to auction and raffle tags that can go for thousands of dollars.

Last year, Ken Moyer of Bend took an elk in the Wenaha Unit after winning the incentive tag. “This tag gave me the opportunity to hunt the areas of the state I had not hunted before. The road closure and wilderness area made for a great secluded hunt,” Moyer told ODFW after his hunt. “This definitely was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and should be an incentive for hunters to report on time.”

‘Ecosystem Squeeze,’ The Blob, Forage And Predator Fish And Massive Murre Dieoff


The common murre is a self-sufficient, resilient bird.

Though the seabird must eat about half of its body weight in prey each day, common murres are experts at catching the small “forage fish” they need to survive. Herring, sardines, anchovies and even juvenile salmon are no match for a hungry murre.


So when nearly one million common murres died at sea and washed ashore from California to Alaska in 2015 and 2016, it was unprecedented — both for murres, and across all bird species worldwide. Scientists from the University of Washington, the U.S. Geological Survey and others blame an unexpected squeeze on the ecosystem’s food supply, brought on by a severe and long-lasting marine heat wave known as “the blob.”

Their findings were published Jan. 15 in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Think of it as a run on the grocery stores at the same time that the delivery trucks to the stores stopped coming so often,” explained second author Julia Parrish, a UW professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “We believe that the smoking gun for common murres — beyond the marine heat wave itself — was an ecosystem squeeze: fewer forage fish and smaller prey in general, at the same time that competition from big fish predators like walleye, pollock and Pacific cod greatly increased.”

Adult common murres return to island and sea stack colonies from California to Alaska, spending three months during each summer to breed. A single chick takes two parents to hunt for fish.

Common murres nest in colonies along cliffs and rocky ledges overlooking the ocean. The adult birds, about one foot in length, are mostly black with white bellies, and can dive more than two football fields below the ocean’s surface in search of prey.

Warmer surface water temperatures off the Pacific coast — a phenomenon known as “the blob” — first occurred in the fall and winter of 2013, and persisted through 2014 and 2015. Warming increased with the arrival of a powerful El Niño in 2015-2016. A number of other species experienced mass die-offs during this period, including tufted puffins, Cassin’s auklets, sea lions and baleen whales. But the common murre die-off was by far the largest any way you measure it.

From May 2015 to April 2016, about 62,000 murre carcasses were found on beaches from central California north through Alaska. Citizen scientists in Alaska monitoring long-term sites counted numbers that reached 1,000 times more than normal for their beaches. Scientists estimate that the actual number of deaths was likely close to one million, since only a fraction of birds that die will wash to shore, and only a fraction of those will be in places that people can access.

Many of the birds that died were breeding-age adults. With massive shifts in food availability, murre breeding colonies across the entire region failed to produce chicks for the years during and after the marine heat wave event, the authors found.

“The magnitude and scale of this failure has no precedent,” said lead author John Piatt, a research biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center and an affiliate professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “It was astonishing and alarming, and a red-flag warning about the tremendous impact sustained ocean warming can have on the marine ecosystem.”

Common murres washing onto beaches in the Homer, Alaska, area were so abundant in early 2016 that COASST beach surveyors were forced to collect and photograph them in batches.

From a review of fisheries studies conducted during the heat wave period, the research team concluded that persistent warm ocean temperatures associated with “the blob” increased the metabolism of cold-blooded organisms from zooplankton and small forage fish up through larger predatory fish like salmon and pollock. With predatory fish eating more than usual, the demand for food at the top of the food chain was unsustainable. As a result, the once-plentiful schools of forage fish that murres rely on became harder to find.

“Food demands of large commercial groundfish like cod, pollock, halibut and hake were predicted to increase dramatically with the level of warming observed with the blob, and since they eat many of the same prey as murres, this competition likely compounded the food supply problem for murres, leading to mass mortality events from starvation,” Piatt said.

On Jan. 1 and 2, 2016, 6,540 common murre carcasses were found washed ashore near Whitter, Alaska, translating into about 8,000 bodies per mile of shoreline — one of the highest beaching rates recorded during the mass mortality event.

As the largest mass die-off of seabirds in recorded history, the common murre event may help explain the other die-offs that occurred during the northeast Pacific marine heat wave, and also serve as a warning for what could happen during future marine heat waves, the authors said.

UW scientists recently identified another marine heatwave forming off the Washington coast and up into the Gulf of Alaska.

“All of this — as with the Cassin’s auklet mass mortality and the tufted puffin mass mortality — demonstrates that a warmer ocean world is a very different environment and a very different coastal ecosystem for many marine species,” said Parrish, who is also the executive director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, known as COASST. “Seabirds, as highly visible members of that system, are bellwethers of that change.”

Additional UW co-authors are Timothy Jones, Hillary Burgess and Jackie Lindsey. Other study co-authors are from U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Farallon Institute, International Bird Rescue, Humboldt State University, National Park Service, NOAA Fisheries, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, NOAA Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Point Blue Conservation Science.

This research was funded by the USGS Ecosystems Mission Area, the North Pacific Research Board, The National Science Foundation and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Skagit-Sauk C&R Steelhead Fishery Scratched Due To Lower Run Forecast


With low numbers of wild steelhead projected to return to the Skagit Basin, fishery managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today that the Skagit steelhead catch-and-release fishery will not open this year.


Only 3,963 wild adult steelhead are expected to return to the Skagit Basin this year from Puget Sound.

Wild Puget Sound steelhead have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 2007. When projected returns to the Skagit Basin are below 4,000 fish, the number of allowable impacts to those fish is substantially restricted, said Edward Eleazer, regional fish program manager for WDFW.

“When returns are this low, our management plan and the ESA permit require us to be extremely conservative with how these fish might be impacted by fishing activity,” Eleazer said. “We have to minimize those impacts to ensure we meet conservation objectives, and to allow for other fisheries that don’t target steelhead in the Skagit and Sauk rivers and Puget Sound.”

Most of the steelhead returning in 2020 are 4 or 5 years old, and the low returns are likely the result of severe drought and low river flows in 2015 and 2016, as well as an unprecedented marine heatwave in the Pacific Ocean that negatively affected survival rates.

The Skagit Basin was closed to wild steelhead fishing for several years before reopening for limited fisheries on the Skagit and Sauk rivers in 2018 and 2019. WDFW worked with tribal co-managers to develop a fishery plan and secure an ESA fishery permit to reopen.

WDFW and the tribes continue working to recover wild steelhead, protect habitat, and remove fish passage barriers to improve survival in Puget Sound.

Estimated 2,000 Northeast Oregon Whitetails Died From EHD: ODFW


Tests conducted by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarians confirmed that Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is responsible for the die-off of an estimated 2,000 white-tailed deer in eastern Oregon.


The EHD outbreak impacted white-tailed deer on the western face of the Blue Mountains from Milton-Freewater to the Pilot Rock area. EHD losses are not uncommon in Oregon and is not expected to have long-term effects on the deer population size. Mule deer in the area were not documented to be affected by the EHD outbreak.

Wildlife biologists first learned about the white-tailed deer die-off in late fall when landowners began reporting dead deer. ODFW collected tissue samples for testing and lab results later confirmed EHD as the cause of death. Surveys in December showed fewer white-tailed deer leading to an estimated potential loss of 2,000 deer from the disease.

ODFW is still determining if deer tags for the fall 2020 seasons need to be reduced or hunts cancelled in the units affected (Walla Walla, Mt Emily, Ukiah). Hunters will be informed of any changes by April 15 so they will have time to change their controlled hunt application choices before the May 15 deadline.

EHD is a seasonal disease that can occur during the late summer and fall months. It is different than Adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD) which can occur year-round. EHD is transmitted by biting midges known as “no-see-ums” or gnats. These breed and live in small pools of warm, stagnant water; even in pools as small as a hoof print filled with water.

As deer gather at these water sources, they may become exposed to infected biting midges. However, freezing temperatures can kill off insects that transmit the disease.

EHD is known to have existed since the 1890s and is found in most of the United States with the exception of the extreme Northeast and the Southwest.

Meat from animals affected by EHD is still consumable and the disease is not transmittable to humans. However, experts recommend thoroughly cooking any meat taken from animals harvested from an infected area.


SW WA, Columbia Gorge Pools Fishing Report (1-14-20)


Washington Columbia River and Tributary Fishing Report Jan 6-12, 2019


Columbia River

John Day Pool – 12 bank anglers kept one steelhead and released four steelhead.


Bonneville Pool – Seven bank anglers had no catch.  13 boats/39 rods kept 10 legal sturgeon, released 64 sublegal and two oversize sturgeon.


The Dalles Pool – Six bank anglers released one sublegal sturgeon.

John Day Pool – 15 bank anglers had no catch.  17 boats/36 rods kept one legal sturgeon and released one oversize sturgeon.

Reservoir Estimated
Total Harvest
% of Guideline Guideline
Bonneville 146 29 500
The Dalles 74 55 135
John Day 18 17 105


John Day Pool – 1 boat/3 rods had no catch.


John Day Pool – Two bank anglers had no catch.


Columbia River Tributaries 

Elochoman River – 11 bank anglers kept 12 steelhead.

(Cowlitz) Above the I-5 Br – One bank angler had no catch.

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.