By Bill Monroe
It hasn't been such a white Christmas in Eastern Oregon, where a low snowpack is a fret for more than just wildlife biologists facing another dry summer.
"It seems like just about every week," said a colleague who forwards requests from Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife troopers seeking help with poaching cases. Indeed, troopers are definitely beleaguered by rampant poaching across Oregon.
The latest case, State Police said, involves multiple cases of deer shot in Klamath and Lake counties and either left to rot, usually but not always with the head missing, or butchered to a degree. A week before Christmas, a three-point buck was shot and left intact off Balsam Drive just outside of Klamath Falls.
Remember in 2010, when a routine five-year deer collaring/telemetry study of mule deer movement in Central Oregon suggested as many deer were poached each year as were taken during hunting seasons? And the majority of those poached were does?
This winter's twist, said Sgt. Randall Hand in a State Police Twitter entry, is mild weather. So mild, in fact, Hand said vehicles have little trouble (other than muddy roads) getting "access to rutting and wintering deer."
From Klamath Falls to northeast Oregon biologists reported similar conditions last week, said Michelle Dennehy, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman. Some watersheds have been so warm deer and elk haven't even bothered to move out of the high country.
Trick, no treat: A pair of poachers – one was probably just an apprentice – that didn't get away were highlighted in the State Police Fish and Wildlife Division's October roundup.
A pilot trooper on a Halloween night flight over the west slopes of the lower Cascade Mountains in Linn and Marion counties spotted a vehicle using a spotlight and vectored others to the location from State Police offices in Salem and Albany. They quickly found the suspects.
A man, accompanied by his 12-year-old son, was cited for spotlighting and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
ODFW will try drones: But not to catch poachers.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has authorized the department's purchase of a pair of unmanned drones to survey offshore cormorant colonies and spawning chinook salmon.
Airplane and helicopter surveys are common, but expensive and, especially by helicopter, potentially dangerous.
Department officials said the drones won't be deployed without Federal Aviation Administration approval and won't violate airspace over private land without permission from the landowner.
App about: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has linked smartphones with its popular hunting map.
An application allows access to the hunting map's convenient game management unit boundaries, various public and private land ownerships, hunting opportunities and more. An explanation and link are online at the department's Web site.
While it supposedly follows the user's location within a few steps, the accuracy in my own testing leaves a little to be desired. Hunting along the lower Columbia River last week, I tried it three times in as many hours between flights of geese and discovered I was hunting in a) the Scappoose Fire Station, b) Sturgeon Lake on Sauvie Island, and c) downtown St. Helens.
Department tech David Lane said he would pass along the information to the contractor running the system, which overlay's the department's map data on the smart phone's internal gps system.
"The magic comes with trying to get them to play nice," he said.
Jeers: And, sadly, quote of the week (which has little to do with the outdoors except that it flies from a pole in our garden)...To a Santa's floor helper last week in a Fred Meyer store who, when asked if they sold American flags in the garden department (ours was a bit shredded by recent windstorms), said they weren't available right now.
"It's kind of a seasonal thing," he said.
Oh? Since when?