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Rare Deer Rebound

Endangered species

When the U.S. Senate conducted its first field hearing on the Endangered Species Act, it picked the Douglas County mill town of Roseburg to host the event.

No other area of the country, said hearing organizer Sen. Bob Packwood, suffered economically trying to save a species, the northern spotted owl, as much as this region has.

So Douglas County may be symbolic of the Endangered Species Act’s perceived shortcomings. But it also happens to be the home of one of the act’s success stories, the Columbian white-tailed deer.

There wasn’t much talk about whitetail at last month’s Senate hearings.

Maybe that’s because whitetail are now so numerous that many people have forgotten they are officially “endangered.”

Columbia white-tailed deer were among the original group of 135 species of plants and animals given “endangered” status when Congress adopted the act in 1973.

The Douglas County population of whitetail is now estimated at 5,500 to 6,000 animals, most of them residing within a 300-square-mile triangle formed by the towns of Oakland, Roseburg and Glide. Another 750 or so whitetail range over the Julia Butler Hansen Wildlife Refuge on the lower Columbia River.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is proceeding with a review that could see the whitetail removed from the state endangered species list as early as October.