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Health evaluation of Columbian white-tailed deer on Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian white-tailed deer

January 1, 1999

The Columbian white-tailed deer ( Odocoileus virginianus leucurus) was designated an endangered species in 1968. At that time the estimated population along the lower Columbia River of Washington and Oregon was 300 to 400 deer (Gavin, 1984). The Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed Deer was established in 1972 to protect Columbian white-tailed deer and associated habitat Currently, an estimated 600 deer are present in several separate populations. The total refuge population is estimated at 200 animals. Of those, the mainland population consists of approximately 60 animals while the largest refuge island (Tenasillahe.Island) supports about 120 animals. The remaining 420 deer are present on private lands near the refuge (AI Clark, pers. com.).

Higher than expected deer mortality on Tenasillahe Island in the spring of 1996 prompted refuge personnel to request assistance from the National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) for diagnostic evaluation to determine the cause of the mortalities. The mortality event occurred in the wake of extraordinary .flooding that reduced the availability and quality of forage on the island. It is estimated that 50% of the deer population on the refuge died during this time period. The basic finding of emaciation attributable to probable starvation raised concerns regarding the health status of the deer herd, available food resources, and current population levels.

A health evaluation was conducted on free-ranging deer from the refuge in February, 1998. This evaluation was an analysis of physiologic parameters obtained from live deer in an attempt to determine the health of individual animals and, with adequate sampling, the health of the population. This study was conducted during February to examine individual animal health during the seasonal period when the deer are in their poorest physical condition. The late winter period prior to spring green-up is a time when the effects ofbreeding and winter stress are most evident (Venne and Ozoga, 1971).

The objectives of this study were to: (1) gather baseline physiologic data on a subset of the population, (2) evaluate the data to determine the health of the animals sampled, (3) if possible, identify causes of poor health and, ( 4) provide refuge personnel with information that will aid them in managing the population.

Publication Year 1999
Title Health evaluation of Columbian white-tailed deer on Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian white-tailed deer
DOI 10.3133/70159824
Authors Terry E. Creekmore, Linda C. Glaser
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Unnumbered Series
Series Title Technical Report
Series Number 99-001
Index ID 70159824
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center