Commission Approves 2004 Tag Numbers & Changes to 2005 Big Game Seasons
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday approved an 11 percent decline in the number of tags available for this fall’s limited deer and elk hunts and a 4 percent increase in the number of tags for bighorn sheep, pronghorn, black bear and mountain goat.
The Commission also preliminarily approved changes to the 2005 big game regulations that will allow a controlled hunt on Columbian white-tailed deer in southwest Oregon, eliminate 800 series “additional” deer hunts, authorize a pronghorn auction tag, and expand hunting opportunities for spring bear, cougar, California bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat. The Commission will formally act on the 2005 proposals at their October meeting.
Deer and elk tags were decreased for 2004 due to a reduced need for hunters to help alleviate agricultural damage and documented declines in some localized populations from disease, habitat changes and predation. The adopted tag numbers represent an 11 percent decrease in rifle buck deer tags and a 25 percent decrease in antlerless deer tags. Additionally, 5 percent fewer bull and either-sex elk tags and 16 percent fewer antlerless elk tags will be available to hunters this year.
In Oregon , two types of hunting seasons are authorized, general seasons and controlled seasons. During the controlled seasons, the number of tags is limited and hunters must apply for them by May 15. There is no limit to the number of general season tags sold.
The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in the state. The seven member panel meets monthly to establish policies and administrative regulations for ODFW to implement.
The following summarizes the Commission’s actions Friday related to big game seasons:
* With healthy bear populations, the Commission preliminarily approved increasing the number of tags by 5 percent to 6,480 tags in 17 spring bear hunts for the 2005 spring controlled season, including three youth-only hunts.
* The Southwest Oregon spring bear season will be lengthened two weeks to April 1 – May 31.
* One new hunt in South Central Oregon was approved for 2005.
* The Indigo unit will be added into an existing southwest Oregon hunt to be consistent with the general season.
* No changes were approved for the general fall bear season. Cougar:
* The Commission preliminarily approved a proposal to expand the area where hunters may hunt with an additional cougar tag to include all of eastern Oregon for the 2005 general season.
* A 3 percent increase in hunt quotas to 579 animals was preliminarily approved for 2005 in an effort to maintain the statewide cougar population at about 3,100 animals, the level in 1994. Currently biologists estimate about 5,000 cougars are in Oregon .
* The Commission approved increasing 2004 tag numbers by 10 percent bringing the total to 77 tags with 66 tags for California bighorn and 11 for Rocky Mountain bighorn.
* Hunt boundaries for East Owyhee #1 and #2 hunts were expanded for the 2004 seasons. Letters will be sent to tag holders advising them of the increased hunt area. With the significant boundary expansion, which is proposed to be permanent in 2005, the Commission approved renaming these hunts Lower Owyhee #1 and Lower Owyhee #2 in the 2005 season.
Rocky Mountain Goat:
Rocky Mountain goat populations in the Wallowa and Elkhorn Mountains have increased as a result of natural dispersal and reintroduction efforts, allowing the Commission to approve issuing one additional tag for 2004 bringing the total to five. Rocky Mountain goat tags are the most difficult tags to draw in the state with more than 1,000 applicants for each tag available. In addition, two new hunts (Hat Point and Goat Mountain ) were preliminarily approved for 2005.
Because pronghorn populations have continued to improve, especially in south central Oregon , the Commission approved a 4 percent increase to 2,816 tags for the 2004 seasons.
* Higher tag numbers were approved for 2004 in the East Beaty’s Butte, West Beaty’s Butte, Hart Mountain, Murderer’s Creek, Juniper, Steens Mountain, Silvies # 1 and #2, North and South Wagtontire, Silvies #1 and #2, Whitehorse and the East Fort Rock-Silver Lake hunts.
* Season dates for two pronghorn bow hunts and two pronghorn muzzleloader hunts will be shifted earlier to avoid conflict with controlled sage grouse in the Beaty’s Butte and Warner unit hunts.
Overall, the number of controlled deer tags for 2004 was reduced by 13 percent as a result of decreases in both antlerless and buck hunts due to lower recruitment ratios and disease-related mortality.
A 22 percent reduction in the number of controlled black-tailed deer tags for 2004 was approved based on the apparent decline of black-tailed deer numbers. In addition, the Commission changed the 2004 bag limit from “one buck deer” to “one buck deer having not less than a forked antler” for early and late archery seasons in western Oregon to improve the buck ratio. In 17 hunt units primarily in northwestern Oregon , the archery bag limit was changed from one buck to one deer.
The Commission gave its preliminary approval to several regulation changes for 2005:
* Adding five days to the Wilson and Trask unit rifle buck hunt to coincide with Coastal Buck season and simplify regulations; and
* Eliminating the opportunity to harvest a third deer in one year (800 series) beginning in 2005 seasons as part of an effort to enhance black-tailed deer populations. All 800 series preference points will be converted to 600 series points and affected hunters will be notified.
ODFW will initiate a planning process for black-tailed deer management in 2005. The plans that are eventually adopted will be included in a statewide “Deer Plan” for Oregon that includes mule deer and white tailed deer.
Most populations are stable or declining due to drops in recruitment in most units. A second Mule deer bow hunting season for 2005 was created for Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge by splitting the season into two hunts. Both seasons will be changed so tags will not be valid during the general bow season.
-Columbian White-Tailed Deer:
White-tailed deer populations in both northwest and southwest Oregon are increasing and expanding, but the Columbian white-tailed deer population in northwest Oregon remains listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. As a result, the Commission approved a new white-tailed deer controlled rifle hunt in the Umpqua unit for the 2005 controlled rifle season with a bag limit of “one buck with at least a forked antler.”
For the 2004 elk seasons, the Commission approved a 9 percent reduction in tags for Rocky Mountain elk hunts and a 10 percent reduction in tags for Roosevelt elk hunts. Decreases in Rocky Mountain elk tags are the result of poor cow-calf ratios in eastern Oregon management units. Decreases in Roosevelt elk tag numbers are the result of fewer damage complaints.
The Commission also preliminarily approved the following changes for the 2005 season:
* Adding two new private lands only, either-sex hunts (Grizzly Private # 1 and #2);
* Deleting 16 antlerless hunts because agricultural damage issues have been addressed and to stabilize bull ratios: Upper North Umpqua, Elliot Rifle, Old Blue, SE Evans Cr. #2, Foothills Rogue, Maury Unit, S. Starkey #2, N. Starkey, Astoria N #1, #2, and #3, Reed and Hawley Mountain, Steens, Silvies Unit #2, Wagontire Unit, and Callahan.
* Adding 13 new antlerless hunts in 2005 to address damage complaints on both agricultural lands and managed timberlands: Astoria #1, #2 and #3, S. Scappoose #3, Arlie-Lewisburg #2, West Kings Valley, Norton Cr., Callahan Youth #1 and Youth #2, Old Blue #1 and #2, Klickitat Mt. and Bully Cr., #2.
* Deleting three hunts in southwest Oregon and adding three new hunts as a result of the annual weapons rotation for the Sitkum, Lake Creek and Elliot hunt areas. Sitkum changes from bow to rifle, Lake Creek changes from muzzleloader to bow and Elliot changes from rifle to muzzleloader.
* Moving the Wilson-Trask bull elk seasons from October to November to be part of the Mid-Coast Valley season and Coast Valley season to simplify regulations. The second season spike-only bag limit will remain in effect.
* Modifying the hunt boundaries in five antlerless hunts: Crooked River, Southwest Grizzly, Tiller, Melrose Plus, and Thompson Creek.
* Deleting three Astoria-area north hunts, expanding the boundary and replacing the hunts with three new Astoria-area north hunts.
Western Gray Squirrel
No changes were made in the 2005 western gray squirrel seasons.
In addition the Commission heard that ODFW will continue the ongoing archery review and will present recommended changes this October and will review disabled hunter permits in 2005.
The Commission also gave its early approval for all the auction and raffle tags available for the 2005 seasons for bighorn sheep, pronghorn and Rocky Mountain goat.
Commission denies petition to close razor clam season early
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday voted to deny a citizen petition to close the Clatsop County razor clam season before the scheduled closure on July 15 in favor of a campaign to educate razor clam harvesters on the rules and avoiding the take of small clams.
Petitioner Al Gann of Warrenton submitted a petition to the Commission during the May meeting because of a concern over wastage of small clams. Many small clams currently are present on Clatsop County beaches because the larger clams do not feed after spawning and last year’s spawn was late.
The daily recreational harvest limit is the first 15 razor clams, regardless of size or conditions.
An informal survey conducted by ODFW biologists recently found that 25-30 percent of clam holes dug by people seeking razor clams had small or broken clams in them, indicating that a large number of diggers were discarding unwanted clams. Studies have shown that up to 80 percent of discarded clams will die because of shell breakage, cut off necks or improper placement back in the sand.
In response to the petition and the informal survey, ODFW encouraged clam harvesters through informational flyers to look for clam siphon holes or “shows” that are dime-sized or larger to avoid small clams. Holes that are smaller than the diameter of a pencil indicate the presence of a small clam. ODFW will provide the flyers to harvesters during the next low tides scheduled for June 19-20 and July 3-5.
The razor clam season currently is open only on those beaches north of Seaside and south of the mouth of the Columbia River. The entire Oregon coast is open to the harvest of other clam and mussel species. Razor clam harvest is not allowed south of Seaside because of the year-long presence of domoic acid, which can cause gastrointestinal illness or more severe symptoms.
Four Wildlife Habitat and Access Projects Approved
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday approved grants to fund four projects that will improve wildlife habitat and increase public hunting access on private lands throughout the state of Oregon . The funding requests were approved as part of the Oregon Access and Habitat Program.
The Commission approved funding the following projects:
* Heppner Regulated Hunt Area: $75,000 toward a $103,716 project in Morrow County to allow continued hunting opportunities on 44,412 acres of private lands open to year-round hunting and fishing. Hunting opportunities include deer, elk, turkey, pheasant, grouse, quail, chukar and Hungarian partridge. The Heppner Regulated Hunt Area has been in existence since 1967 and has been funded by the A&H program since 1994. A&H funding will be used to pay participating landowners $1 an acre for access to their properties. All costs associated with managing the program are paid by ODFW and OSP.
* Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area: $13,664 toward a $15,164 project in Umatilla County. The funds will be used to pay the landowner an access fee of $.50 an acre and to fund an Oregon State Police trooper to patrol the area. The Coombs Canyon Regulated Hunt Area is a 12,500 acre ranch that is primarily open grassland foothills. The landowner allows youth buck, antlerless deer, upland bird and coyote hunting on his property.
* Hunt Mountain Forage Enhancement and Hunter Access: $22,000 toward a $56,400 project in Baker County. The landowner will use A&H funds to build four miles of perimeter fence around his property near Haines. The construction of the fence will allow the landowner to manage cattle grazing operations to benefit elk in the area. The grazing management plan should hold the elk in the higher elevations longer and help alleviate some of the elk damage in the agricultural areas below. In return, the landowner will allow public hunting on a permission-only basis on his property for five years.
* Crowfoot Forage Development: $12,000 toward an $18,000 project in Jackson County. This project is designed to improve winter range forage for black-tailed deer within the existing 126,517 acre Jackson Access and Cooperative Travel Management Area. The project will thin the oak over-story and cut the wedgeleaf ceanothus on 48 acres to promote new growth for deer forage.
The Commission also approved funding to conduct two surveys designed to evaluate the success of the Access and Habitat Program. The Hunting Public Survey will gauge the proportion of hunters aware of the program and of the private land hunting opportunities it provides. It also will determine whether the program is being publicized adequately. Funding for the Hunting Public Survey was approved in the amount of $7,800.
A Cooperator Survey also was approved and will identify the satisfaction level of the landowners cooperating in the Access and Habitat Program. It will evaluate the entire application, grant agreement and reporting process and will identify areas were improvements need to be made.
The Oregon Survey Research Laboratory at the University of Oregon will conduct both surveys and will provide a final report on the findings.