Tag Archives: ODFW

Springer Catch Stays Below Quota But Doesn’t Look Like Enough For Reopener

That good springer fishing on the Lower Columbia that wrapped up Sunday evening was the last on the big river for awhile, at least till a runsize update that’s now not expected until mid-May.

State managers estimate that the recently concluded four-day opener brought the catch to within 423 fish of the upriver quota, and after release mortalities on wild Chinook are factored in and visual stock identifications are double-checked against coded-wire tag data, it’s unlikely there will be any more time on the water for several weeks.

KEVIN GRAY NABBED THIS SPRING CHINOOK OUT OF THE LOWER COLUMBIA ON SUNDAY, THE LAST DAY OF FISHING FOR CHINOOK UNTIL, AT THE VERY EARLIEST, MID-MAY’S RUNSIZE UPDATE. GRAY WAS USING A FLASHER WITH A HERRING BRINED IN GRAYBILL’S SCENT, RUN ON BOTTOM. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

“We’ve got between 350 and 360 fish available for harvest prerunsize update below Bonneville Dam, and that’s not enough to have any kind of opener,” says WDFW’s Ron Roler in Vancouver.

According to the latest stats, from April 20-23 we caught 6,355 adult kings, of which 5,784 were kept, with 75 percent of those coming from the constraining above-Bonneville stocks.

That brought the season totals to 8,947 kept Chinook, including 6,482 upriver fish, over 61,020 anglers trips.

The quota for before the run size is updated is 6,905 Chinook headed for Eastern Washington, Central Idaho and Northeast Oregon streams.

“We were concerned we were going to be over,” says Roler. “That number turned out to be a relief for me and Oregon.”

Nearly all of this season’s salmon have been caught in April, with an estimated 7,772 for boaters, 750 for Oregon bankies, and 379 for Washington plunkers.

Over the final four days, best catch was in the western Columbia Gorge, where 1,192 were brought over the rails of jet sleds fishing above the eastern tip of Reed Island to the boat deadline below the dam.

“I think we’re done in the lower river until the runsize update — that may not be till mid-May,” says Roler, pointing to high, muddy, cold water that gives springers “no reason to hurry” upstream.

The dam count sits at 1,732 through yesterday, just 6 percent of the 10-year average.

Roler does say that it’s likely there will be talks about the springer fishery above Bonneville to the Oregon-Washington border, which is slated to otherwise wrap up May 5.

 

More Details Emerge On Northeast Oregon Elk Killing

The wife of and an attorney for a Northeast Oregon rancher accused of killing as many as 25 elk this past winter are fighting back.

A week ago it was reported that Larry Harshfield, 69, had been arrested and lodged in jail April 8 on 12 counts of unlawful closed-season take and 12 counts of wastage for a dozen elk found slaughtered on his property north of Wallowa in February, with charges for 13 more rotting away on neighboring ground forwarded to county prosecutors.

AN OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE TROOPER INVESTIGATES AN ELK CARCASS. (OSP)

The news led to outrage on social media, but also claims that the full story wasn’t being told.

The Wallowa County Chieftain stated that it was unable to get ranchers to talk to them, but an article out yesterday afternoon sheds some more light on the situation.

Pam Harshfield told The Oregonian that the elk herd in the area has grown tenfold in two decades, making it harder and harder for the family to keep the animals out of the haystacks they put up for cattle they raise.

This past winter, one of the harshest in more than 20 years, compounded things. If you recall from our story about conditions not too far north of here, elk cleaned out an entire shed full of 30-plus-year-old hay on Washington’s Grande Ronde, while in Idaho elk and pronghorn were driven towards homes where they browsed on a deadly landscaping shrub.

“We have to care for our animals all day long in subzero temps and then care for 200 of the State of Oregon’s elk herd all night long,” Pam Harshfield said in an email, reported the paper’s Andrew Theen.

He included a statement from her husband’s attorney, Lissa Casey of Eugene, who castigated the Oregon State Police for putting out a press release on the April 8 arrest of her client, first to local news outlets, then yesterday more broadly.

“Instead of letting this case proceed as other criminal cases do, law enforcement arrested a hard-working rancher to provide information for their press releases,” Casey emailed, Theen reported. “He and his family can’t be silent anymore in the face of the public information campaign the government is waging against him.”

After word broke April 13, it initially caught the attention of Glenn Palmer, sheriff of Grant County, Oregon. Writing on his personal Facebook page at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, he spoke to the cost and damage caused by elk coming to feed on rancher haystacks.

He said that while he “can see and understand frustration … I don’t agree with it but ODFW needs to be in a position to help and mitigate these issues.

That led to a response a couple hours later from the wildlife agency that in fact it had been helping mitigate the issues on the Harshfield Ranch.

Late last week spokesman Michelle Dennehy confirmed to Northwest Sportsman the following statement came from ODFW:

Elk can cause significant damage (especially after a rough winter like this year’s). ODFW works with landowners to in a variety of ways to try to limit this damage. In this case, ODFW has been working with the involved individuals for several years to try to address elk damage on their property. In past, we have helped cost-share alfalfa seed, fertilizer and noxious weed spraying on the property.

This year we issued them a hazing permit and shotgun shells for hazing. We issued elk damage tags to anyone they authorized and who came to us for the tags. We offered to set up an emergency hunt, which the landowners declined because they wanted more control than that program allowed over who could hunt. (These landowners also do not generally allow public hunting which can help address damage). ODFW offered them a kill permit, which they also declined because it requires the permittee to skin, dress, and transport the carcasses to a meat processor for charity which they did not want to do.

ODFW gave the landowners plastic netting to wrap their hay sheds. We were also discussing a plan to supply woven wire fencing to protect their hay sheds. That didn’t happen this winter but we were in discussions to provide in spring.

The Oregonian‘s Theen reports the Harshfields are “hesitant” to allow hunters onto their 450 acres because they would “feel responsible” if bullets were winged at elk in the direction of neighbors’ homes.

Aerial imagery shows structures to the north, west and south of the ranch, with rising open rangeland to the east.

They also question field dressing game without help during such harsh conditions, and claim the venison wasn’t wasted, as it provided carrion to eagles and whatnot.

As it stands, during one of the roughest winters in recent memory, a herd of Oregon’s elk received the toughest of treatments imaginable.

Larry Harshfield will be arraigned next month on the 24 misdemeanor charges, which if convicted could bring fines of as much as $6,250 per count, plus loss of hunting privileges for three years and seizure of any weapon used to kill said elk, according to OSP.

5-day Springer Extension Yields 2,029 For BBQs; 4 More Days Coming

Editor’s note: Updated 3:40 p.m., April 18, 2017 at bottom

Catches surged during the recently concluded five-day extension of Columbia spring Chinook season.

An estimate from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Jimmy Watt’s says that from April 13 through the 17th, 2,264 of the early salmon were caught and 2,029 were kept across nearly 12,000 angler trips.

THOUGH THIS YEAR’S 4-YEAR-OLD SPRINGERS SEEM TO BE A BIT SMALLER THAN USUAL, NOT SO WITH THIS LIKELY 5-YEAR-OLD FISH HELD BY GUIDE ERIC LINDE. A CLIENT CAUGHT THE ESTIMATED 30-POUNDER ON A HERRING BEHIND A FISH FLASH. (VIA BUZZ RAMSEY)

With 70 percent of those springers bound for tribs above Bonneville, that brings the upriver tally to 2,119 out of the 6,905 available before the runsize update.

Overall, 3,163 kings have been kept this season, a figure which includes fish that would have turned off into the Cowlitz, Kalama and Willamette.

Boaters have accounted for 2,616 of those, Oregon bankees 340 and Washington plunkers 146.

All except 61 were bonked in April.

Huge, cold flows appear to have slowed the run down.

“The 503 adult spring Chinook counted at Bonneville Dam through April 16 are the second lowest on record since at least 1939,” reported fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver this morning. “The record low are the 205 fish counted through April 16, 2006.”

Still, anglers have been catching fish, but in a different spot than usual.

Catch tallies show 589 carded in Zone 10, below Cathlamet, followed by 502 below the Lewis (beware the closure around the trib mouth), 424 from the Willamette to the Lewis, and 317 around the Puget Island reach.

Buzz Ramsey at Yakima Bait has been keeping a close eye on the fishery, forwarding his pics and those of guides catching kings on anchor with M2 Flatfish and trolling herring and Fish Flashes.

Fishing is closed for springers on the Columbia at the moment, but scheduled to reopen this coming Thursday through Sunday, April 20-23.

Managers had planned to hold a teleconference tomorrow afternoon at 1 to go over the fishery and run status, but subsequently cancelled it. They say they may hold one April 26 to review things.

ODFW Reverses Course On Wickiup Kokanee Bag, Season Rules

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has rescinded two emergency rules that would have removed the kokanee “bonus bag” on Wickiup Reservoir, and closed the Deschutes River arm of the reservoir a month earlier in late summer.

STEPHANIE PEMBLE CAUGHT THIS KOKANEE AT WICKIUP RESERVOIR WITH GUIDE JON WILEY. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

The rules were intended to protect natural reproduction in the reservoir under new water management rules that could affect key spawning grounds.

“We’re going to take a step back to do some additional monitoring and to engage the angling community in a discussion of what the fish management options are for Wickiup under the new water regime,” said Brett Hodgson, ODFW fish manager.

Wickiup Reservoir will open to fishing on April 22 under the regulations printed in the 2017 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations.

Harsh Winter Leads To Emergency Reduction Of East Oregon Deer, Antelope Tags

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Tag reductions for deer, pronghorn in parts of eastern Oregon due to high winter mortality

Baker, northern Malheur, and Union County hunts to see 25-50% reduction

Temperatures never reached freezing for 28 consecutive days and hit as low as -23 in Baker County this past winter. The snow depth exceeded 18 inches throughout the county.

District Wildlife Biologist Brian Ratliff compared this year’s winter to 1993-94. “It came early, it lasted long and the snow kept accumulating,” he said. “We have had winters like this historically but not in the last 10 years.”

MULE DEER GATHERED ON WINTER RANGE IN THE KEATING UNIT. ODFW REPORTS THE SNOW CAME EARLY AND LASTED LONG, “CAUSING HIGH MULE DEER FAWN MORTALITY.” (ODFW)

Early spring flight surveys of mule deer showed the winter took a toll on mule deer. Usually, surveys count fawn ratios (fawns per 100 adults) in the mid-30s. This year, 11 fawns per 100 adults on average were counted across the county with some units being as low as 8 per 100 adults. While the average winter loss of adult radio-collared does being studied in the Blue Mountains is around 8 percent, Baker County lost 32 percent.

The region’s Rocky Mountain elk fared better due to their larger size, so there are no reductions in elk tags. “We saw some elk mortality, as we always do, but it was not significant,” Ratliff explained. “Due to their size, elk can generate more body heat at less energetic cost and they can get thru crustier snow easier than smaller ungulates like deer and pronghorn.”

ODFW is reducing pronghorn and mule deer controlled tags in the units effected to conserve wildlife populations. Hunters in these units should expect to see fewer yearling animals (spikes and 2-points) this fall.  (These age classes made up about 33 percent of Baker County’s harvest last year.)

Baker County pronghorn and buck tags will be reduced by 50 percent, and two doe hunts on agricultural lands will be cancelled. Union County tags will be reduced 35 percent. Malheur County tags will be reduced by 40 percent in the Beulah Unit and 25 percent in the Owyhee Unit. See the table below for the full list of hunts reduced and final tag numbers. (The Tag #s Now Available figures will replace what is currently printed in the 2017 Oregon Big Game Regulations.)

Landowner Preference tags will also be reduced.

Hunters who have already applied for one of the controlled hunts effected may change their hunt choices free of charge until June 1, 2017. Use the Controlled Hunt Application Change Request form found online and mail, fax or hand it in to an ODFW office (hunt choices cannot be changed through the online sales system).

While surveying big game herds in early spring, Ratliff even saw pronghorn on the frozen Snake River, a sight he’s never witnessed during 12 years as a wildlife biologist in the region. “The deer went as low as they could possibly go,” he said, referring to deer’s annual migration to lower-elevation winter range to survive the winter. “I saw them in places I’d never seen them before. But there was no forage for them that wasn’t covered by snow and it was just really tough on fawns.”

Ratliff says it may take a few years of good fawn production to bring back the population. The above-average snowpack and improved range conditions from all the water this year will help with fawn production and should benefit mule deer and other wildlife populations in the long term.

 

2017 Emergency Tag Reductions
Hunt # Hunt Name % Tag Reduction Tag #s Now Available
100 Series Buck Deer    
151 Sumpter Unit -50% 825
152A Starkey -35% 537
153 Catherine Cr Unit -35% 273
154A E. Mt. Emily -35% 137
162 Pine Creek Unit -50% 193
163 Keating Unit -50% 270
164 Lookout Mtn Unit -50% 159
165 Beulah Unit -40% 1,188
165A SE Beulah -40% 297
166 Malheur River Unit -35% 1,210
167 Owyhee Unit -25% 327
167A NE Owyhee -25% 103
600 Series Antlerless Deer
651T Baker No.1 Youth -50% 17
651A Sumpter-Unity Ag -100% No Tags
663A Keating Ag -100% No Tags
400 Series, Pronghorn
451b South Sumpter -52% 13
463 Keating Unit -50% 6
464 Lookout Mtn Unit -53% 8
464R Lookout Mtn Unit Bow -50% 11
465 Beulah Unit -40% 54
467 Owyhee Unit -25% 61
467R Owyhee Unit Bow -25% 54

 

 

Call For Vols: Hands Needed For Upcoming Alsea River Cleanup

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Alsea Sportsman’s Association will join forces with other conservation-minded individuals Sunday, April 23 to clean up the Alsea River.

The day-long clean-up is set to begin at 9 a.m. at the U.S. Forest Service’s Blackberry Campground (day use area), located approximately 19 miles east of Waldport on Highway 34. ODFW is seeking volunteers to assist with the clean-up both by boat and from shore.

GOT SUNDAY, APRIL 23, FREE AND LIVE WITHIN A DRIVE OF THE ALSEA? VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED FOR A CLEANUP OF THE RIVER’S BANKS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“We need volunteers to work from the river and others to work from the road, picking up trash along the Alsea River corridor and at popular boat ramps and bank access sites along the river,” said Christine Clapp, ODFW biologist in Newport. This event is also sponsored by SOLVE and Dahl Disposal Service.

Free Northwest Forest day passes will be provided to volunteers, and a shuttle service will also be available. Both drift boats and motor boats are welcome.  There will be coffee and donuts in the morning and a barbeque hosted by the Alsea Sportsman’s Association in the afternoon.

“This is a great and fun way for people to show their support for clean and healthy rivers” said Clapp. The clean-up will focus on the river downstream from Campbell Park, as river flows allow.

ODFW Releases 2016 Wolf Surveys, Calls For Comment On New Draft Plan

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DPEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WIDLIFE

ODFW releases its 2016 Wolf Annual Report and a Draft Revised Wolf Management Plan today. Find both documents at ODFW’s Wolf webpage (www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves)

These documents will be presented (for information only, not adoption) at the upcoming Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting on April 21 in Klamath Falls. The draft Plan will also be presented at a second Commission meeting on May 19 at the Embassy Suites Portland Airport. Public comment is welcome at both meetings or at odfw.commission@state.or.us.

(ODFW)

Below are some highlights from the Annual Report, which summarizes 2016 wolf management activities and results of annual winter surveys:

  • ODFW counted 112 known wolves in Oregon in 2016, up two wolves from 2015. Counts are based on verified evidence (like tracks, sign, remote camera photographs, visual observations) and are considered a minimum known population. Severe winter weather made counting wolves much more challenging this year.
  • Surveys documented 11 packs and eight of those were breeding pairs.
  • 2016 was the third consecutive year of more than seven breeding pairs in eastern Oregon which moved the East Wolf Management Zone into Phase 3 of wolf management.
  • The wolf population continued to expand in distribution, with new areas of wolf activity in northeast and southwest Oregon.
  • Two previously occupied areas of wolf activity have changed, including the newly named Harl Butte Pack which is using part of the area previously held by the Imnaha pack.
  • ODFW radio-collared 11 wolves last year.
  • Staff monitored collared wolves in ten groups during 2016.
  • ODFW confirmed 24 livestock depredation events by wolves in 2016, an increase from 2015.
  • Seven mortalities were documented during 2016, including three radio-collared wolves.

For more details, see the Annual Report.

ODFW also released an updated draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan today. The draft Plan is the result of a year-long review process to evaluate its effectiveness and address opportunities for improvement. It incorporates the latest science about wolves and includes new sections on potential conservation threats to wolves and non-lethal measures to prevent wolf-livestock conflict. It also updates base information about wolf status, population and distribution, plus management improvements based on actual field experience with wolves.

This current review has the benefit of large amounts of Oregon-specific wolf data. “When the Plan was first developed, Oregon had no known wolves and relied heavily on information from other states,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf program coordinator. “This review of the Plan incorporates more information from Oregon, and adds a great deal of new science about wolves.”

The draft Plan maintains the original Plan’s goals and aims to keep its original intent. The Plan was first negotiated between stakeholders and adopted by the Commission back in 2005 after ODFW’s largest-ever public process. The draft Plan offers more details on several policies agreed on in the original Plan.

For example, the original Wolf Plan allowed controlled take of wolves in Phase 3 only, and only in two specific circumstances; 1) situations of chronic livestock depredation, or 2) if wolves are determined to be causing declines in ungulate populations such as deer and elk. This draft Plan does not change that intent, but does add additional guidelines and specific prerequisites for when this type of take can occur. The draft Plan also continues the policy of not allowing general seasons of wolf hunting or trapping in Oregon.

Other policy issues addressed in the draft Plan include:

  • The definition of chronic depredation is proposed to become more stringent in Phases 2 and 3. The current definition is two confirmed or one confirmed and three attempted depredations with no time period set. The new proposed definition is three confirmed depredations or one confirmed and four probable depredations within a 12-month period.
  • The requirements to use non-lethal measures before consideration of lethal control of depredating wolves continue.
  • A citizen advisory group is proposed to improve information sharing and collaboration between ODFW and stakeholders.
  • As the wolf population increases, the use of monitoring methods which do not require capture of wolves (like howling and track surveys, camera surveillance, aerial surveys) will become increasingly important. Staff will continue to attempt to collar wolves, but other survey methods will be explored.

The presentation of the updated draft Plan during the April and May meetings is considered informational only; the Draft Plan will not be considered for adoption at these meetings. A date for final consideration and adoption of the Plan has not yet been set.

Comments on the Draft Plan may be provided to odfw.commission@state.or.us or in-person at the meetings.

For more information on wolves in Oregon, visit www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves

ODFW Sharply Drops Wickiup Kokanee Limit, Trims Season

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Fishery managers have announced two new rule changes that will affect the kokanee bag limit, and fall fishing in the Deschutes River arm of Wickiup Reservoir.

The first rule change eliminates the kokanee “bonus bag” that allowed anglers to keep up to 25 kokanee in addition to the regular 5 fish trout limit. Effective opening day, April 22, 2017, anglers must include kokanee within the 5 fish trout limit.

WICKIUP RESERVOIR KOKANEE ANGLERS MAY NOT BE SMILING AS MUCH AS STEPHANIE PEMBLE WAS AFTER CATCHING THIS ONE SEVERAL SEASONS AGO, BUT TO PROTECT NATURAL SPAWNING STOCKS OF THE LANDLOCKED SALMON SPECIES, ODFW IS DROPPING THE LIMIT SHARPLY AND CHOPPING A MONTH OFF THE BACK END OF THE SEASON. PEMBLE WAS FISHING WITH GUIDE JON WILEY. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

The second rule change will close fishing in the Deschutes River arm of the reservoir one month earlier from Sept. 30 to Aug. 31 and move the boundary from the West South Twin boat ramp to Gull Point. The remainder of the reservoir will continue to be open for fishing until Oct. 31.

According to Brett Hodgson, ODFW fish biologist in Bend, the Deschutes River arm is an important spawning area for kokanee and trout.

“We don’t stock Wickiup Reservoir – the entire fishery depends on the natural production of kokanee, brown trout and redband trout,” Hodgson said. “We need to take management action to ensure this natural production sustains a fishery.”

Under a new water management regime, water in the reservoir is drawn down earlier in the summer.  This will concentrate fish in a smaller area near the unscreened outlet and make them more vulnerable to both fishing pressure on the spawning grounds and escaping from the reservoir downstream into the Deschutes River. This will limit the annual production of kokanee and trout. Kokanee begin their spawning migration in late August.

“These fish are vulnerable to anglers who target the spawning kokanee and the trout that follow the kokanee upstream to feed on their eggs,” Hodgson states.

The storage and release of water from the Reservoir has been altered to help protect listed spotted frogs downstream, and to improve the ecological function of the Deschutes River, he said.

“It may be a while before we know what impact the change in water management will have on the spotted frog,” Hodgson said. “But in the meantime we need to be proactive in protecting spawning fish to conserve redband trout populations and to maintain the robust and diverse recreational fishery.”

New ODFW Program Encourages Sportsmen To ‘Take A Friend Hunting,’ Maybe Win A Prize

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE DFROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLFIE

Maybe it’s a work friend who has never been hunting but is curious about the sport—or your spouse wants to experience your weekends during the fall hunting season. Or it’s an old friend who hasn’t made time to hunt in years, because they don’t have anyone to go with.

For veteran hunters who want to pass on their passion for the outdoors, this is the year to take that friend hunting—and enter to win a prize for your efforts.

A GRAPHIC SUPPLIED BY THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE FOR THE AGENCY’S NEW “TAKE A FRIEND HUNTING” CAMPAIGN, FEATURING SOME GREAT PRIZES. (ODFW)

ODFW is hosting the new “Take a Friend Hunting” Contest to encourage friends and family members to enjoy time together in the outdoors this year.

Adult hunters who mentor other new or lapsed adult hunters can enter to win prizes, including a 2018 statewide deer tag (pending Fish and Wildlife Commission approval), a Leupold rifle scope valued at $690, an Eberlestock M5 Team Elk Pack valued at $329, and more.

To be eligible for the contest, both the experienced hunter (mentor) and the new or lapsed hunter (mentee) must have a valid 2017 Oregon hunting license and be age 18 or older. New or returning hunters are those who have never purchased an Oregon hunting license, purchased for the first time in 2016, or have not purchased since 2012.

“Learning to hunt can be challenging for adults who didn’t grow up hunting,” said Chris Willard, ODFW recruitment and retention coordinator. “Mentoring by a friend or relative is a great way for those interested in hunting to get started.

“This year step up and take a friend hunting. Or, if you’ve never hunted and would like to learn how, ask a friend who hunts to take you along,” Willard added. “Either way, take advantage of Oregon’s tremendous hunting opportunities and the chance to enjoy the outdoors with friends.”

Unlike the ODFW Youth Mentor Program, the Take a Friend Hunting contest is for adults only, and each person must hunt on their own license and tag. All types of hunting (big game, waterfowl, upland bird, predator) qualify, as long as they are legal, ethical and safe.

Mentees who want to go big game hunting but did not draw a controlled hunt tag are welcome to join the mentor’s hunt (or vice versa). But the person without a tag may not carry a rifle or bow or take a shot at the big game animal with their friend’s weapon.

Participants need to register for the contest at www.oregonhunter.info/ no later than Dec. 31, 2017. Both mentor and mentee will be provided with safety guidelines to review, and must commit to having already mentored or plan to in 2017. For the full eligibility and contest rules, visit the contest page at http://www.oregonhunter.info/take-a-friend/.

While both parties need to register and provide a Hunter/Angler ID#, the mentor will win the prize. Winners will be notified in January 2018. The list of partner prizes is growing as organizations and manufacturers jump on board with these efforts encouraging new hunters. See the list of prizes at http://www.oregonhunter.info/prizes/.

The Take a Friend Hunting Contest is part of ODFW efforts to raise awareness of the benefits of hunting among Oregonians and encourage more participation in the sport. Through their purchase of hunting licenses and equipment, hunters fund wildlife management, research, habitat restoration and other work that benefits both game species and wildlife species that aren’t hunted. Visit www.oregonhuntiner.info to learn more.

OSU Studying Bighorns To Learn More About Risk From ‘Killer’ Bacteria

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

With their ability to climb steep rocky mountain areas, California bighorn sheep live in some of the most rugged environments Oregon has to offer.

No matter how high they go, the wild sheep can’t elude Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae – the bacteria now widely thought to be primarily responsible for fatal infectious pneumonia in bighorns. Respiratory disease has killed numerous wild sheep in Oregon and other Western states over the past few decades and is considered the largest risk to wild sheep populations, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A SOUTHEAST OREGON BIGHORN EWE GUARDS HER LAMB. THE WILD SHEEP ARE EXTREMELY SUSCEPTIBLE TO A BACTERIA FOUND IN DOMESTIC HERDS, AND OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY IS TRYING TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW BEHAVIORS OF CALIFORNIA BIGHORNS AFFECT THEIR RISK OF CATCHING THE DISEASE AND DYING. (ROBERT SPAAN)

Once a herd is infected, an all-age die-off can occur, and the disease remains chronic in the population.

Now, Oregon State University researchers are studying several aspects of the California bighorn sheep herd in the state – including movement, habitat use and survival – to gain insight into the animal’s risk for contracting the killer strain known as M. ovi (pronounced m-ovee). The disease spreads through contact between domestic sheep flocks and bighorn sheep, or from bighorn to bighorn.

Oregon is home to about 3,700 California bighorn sheep in 32 different herds in central and southeast Oregon. ODFW traditionally captures and relocates California bighorn sheep around the state each year to improve genetic diversity and restore this rare species to its historic range in Oregon. But these relocation efforts are on hold this year while wildlife managers learn more about M. ovi, partly through the work being done at OSU.

Often, the first contact with a particular strain of pneumonia kills bighorn of all ages, according to OSU wildlife biologist Clint Epps. Some adults survive, but then as the infection persists their lambs die every year. A bighorn herd might not recover for decades.

Wildlife managers strive to keep wild and domestic sheep and goats separate to avoid transmission of the disease.

“There is a high-stakes need to understand where the pathogen is likely to enter a bighorn population and where it’s likely move after that,” Epps said. “In the past few years, wildlife agencies in the West have made decisions to remove certain individual animals, or all individuals in the herd, to prevent the spread of disease.”

A die-off of the bighorn sheep herd in the Lower Owhyee River Canyon in 2015-16 raised concerns about how M. ovi is impacting Oregon’s wild sheep populations. Also, that year the Nevada Department of Wildlife made the difficult choice to euthanize an entire herd of sick bighorn sheep just south of Oregon’s border to stop the spread of M. ovi to neighboring populations.

In 2011, ODFW had to kill five of the 20 bighorn sheep reintroduced to the John Day Fossil Beds after they wandered into an area where they could have been exposed to a domestic sheep farm.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of effort to increase these bighorn populations, and our goal is to provide better information when they make those decisions,” Epps said.

ODFW wildlife biologists and veterinarians have sampled and collared more than 120 California bighorn sheep in the past two years. Recent samples from those captured bighorn sheep, some of which were tested at OSU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, will provide extensive information on diseases and animal health, including determining whether the strain that eliminated the Nevada herd has spread to Oregon’s bighorn sheep.

Robert Spaan, an OSU doctoral student, travels to southeastern Oregon from April to August to study the California bighorn sheep herds, which each typically number between 30 and 150 individuals. He tracks the bighorn sheep that have been fitted with GPS collars by ODFW and records birth and death data.

“We’re able to respond to mortalities, and we are able to determine cause of death in most cases,” Spaan said. “We managed to detect a die-off of lambs in one population last year, the only one where we saw active M. ovi infection.”

Disease was one of the factors when bighorn sheep died off in Oregon in 1940s, along with unregulated hunting. But sport hunters have since been instrumental in restoring bighorn sheep in Oregon. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual auction and raffle of special bighorn sheep tags have generated thousands of dollars for their management and for research.

Among the funders of the study are the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.