By Arianna Dean
his is the first in a series of short ecology-related articles written by members of the Orcas High School Environmental Club in preparation for Earth Day 2014. This year’s Earth Day Parade will be held at noon on Tuesday, April 22. The theme is “Endangered Animals.” Not many people are aware of the true extent of the damage done to wildlife by humans. The list of endangered species in Washington State alone is daunting; the list of all endangered species in the North America, or around the world, is downright shocking and upsetting. Our ignorance is why so many animals are on these lists. It is time for us to open our eyes.
Among the many species of concern in our backyard is the beautiful Columbian white-tailed deer. Named for the Columbia River, herds of these deer tend to congregate near this river in the states of Washington and Oregon. The Columbian white-tailed deer was federally listed as an endangered species in Washington and Oregon in 1967. Thanks to immense effort by conservationists, the Douglas County, Oregon population of deer was removed from the Endangered Species Act in 2003. However, only the population of Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County has been removed from the Act. The deer in this one region are considered more or less safe, but the species overall is still considered endangered and has not been removed from the Act.
While other white-tailed deer subspecies are able to breed at six months of age, the Columbian white-tailed deer does not breed until it is about 18 months of age. Though it is not a huge difference, this longer waiting period for breeding is arguably part of the reason this animal is in danger; the Columbian white-tailed deer reproduces at a slightly slower rate than other deer. Furthermore, for over twenty years, the Columbian white-tail has been off-limits when hunting season rolls around. In 2005, however, tags were made available. Currently, there is an opportunity to hunt these still endangered animals at the Umpqua River. This is an animal that needs to be protected. We helped it to barely get back up on its feet, and only in one region, and as soon as the Columbian white-tailed deer population in Oregon starts to look a little healthier we allow it to be hunted again.
While we go about our busy lives, we rarely stop to think about what affect our actions have on the world around us. Ignorance is bliss, yes; but knowledge is power. If we educate ourselves about the world around us and fight for creatures that cannot speak for themselves, then maybe endangered species like the Columbian white-tailed deer will have a better chance of surviving.