Translocated deer survive on Ridgfield
October 23, 2014
Over the past several years, we have seen remarkable strides toward the recovery of the Columbian white-tailed deer, mainly as a result of translocations; however the decision to conduct a translocation is still difficult. One has to evaluate all the possible scenarios in which the translocation could go wrong and weigh them against the benefits of moving the animals. Research is conducted to find the safest methods of capture and transport. Expected survival rates are calculated and evaluated. One needs to consider natural mortality and how that can affect the survival of the population as a whole. And don’t forget all the paperwork! Despite all these preparations, nature can be unpredictable and we must continue to learn and adapt our methods.
In early 2013, there was an emergency translocation of 37 Columbian white-tailed deer from the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). While successful, the new subpopulation was small enough that it was unlikely to sustain itself without further translocation efforts. Between February and April, 2014, an additional 21 white-tailed deer were translocated to Ridgefield NWR from Puget Island (11) and Westport (10).
Between these two translocations, 58 deer were moved, and a total of seven deer died as a result of the move. These deaths could be attributed to direct (capture stress known as myopathy) or indirect (predation, vehicle strikes, etc., soon after release) causes. Twelve additional deer died from natural causes (age, predation, etc.), and three were illegally harvested.
A sustainable deer herd is considered 50 deer or greater. Ridgefield NWR now contains at least 48 deer. This includes six fawns produced last year and six fawns observed so far this year.
One final translocation is planned for early 2015 to ensure that this subpopulation becomes self-sustainable. Translocations in concert with habitat restoration and habitat enhancement on both refuges will ensure stability and security for Columbian white-tailed deer.