Field reports: Pronghorn herd removed from Umatilla depot

SUNDAY, DEC. 22, 2013

CRITTERS – Most of the humans are gone from a U.S. government depot in Eastern Oregon where a stockpile of chemical weapons has been destroyed. Now the pronghorn are gone, too.

A helicopter herded 38 pronghorns into traps at the Umatilla Chemical Depot on Wednesday, and the herd was later driven about 300 miles south to the Beulah Wildlife Management Unit near Ontario, Ore., for release.

Since 1969, antelope had lived behind fences at the 19,000-acre government facility in northeast Oregon as a nursery herd, helping to rebuild populations of the species native to the Columbia Plateau and high-desert shrubland of the region. Oregon now has about 25,000 pronghorn.

But the depot finished incinerating a stockpile of nerve agents in 2011. The plant is being dismantled. The fences are to come down, and wildlife officials said it wouldn’t do to have the antelope roaming the farms and industries nearby.

Pronghorn are the fastest ungulates in North America, capable of hitting 40 mph, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a news release about the move.

A total of 37 pronghorn were released after the trip to the Beulah Wildlife Management Unit near Ontario – eight adult males, 22 adult females and seven young. One animal in poor condition was euthanized.

Plans for the depot site include a wildlife refuge of 5,600 acres. The plot is one of the largest examples of shrub steppe habitat remaining in the region. It’s especially good for burrowing owls.

Idaho targets two wilderness wolf packs

PREDATORS – Idaho wildlife officials trying to aid the recovery of elk populations have hired a hunter to track down and kill wolves from two packs roaming federal wilderness in the middle of the state.

Hiring a professional hunter and trapper will help determine if it’s a cost-effective method for managing wolves, said Jeff Gould, wildlife bureau chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The targeted wolves roam in areas of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness that are rarely reached by sport hunters.

Pro-wolf groups are protesting the move.

In 2012, the state paid $22,500 for aerial killing of 14 wolves in the Lolo area in northern Idaho.

Gould said it’s the first time the agency has hired someone to reduce wolf numbers in the land encompassing the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The wolf packs to be targeted by Gus Thoreson of Salmon include the Golden and Monumental packs. He’ll base out of Forest Service ranger cabins under an interagency agreement.

Agency research shows the wolf population continues to be a factor in the decline of Idaho’s prized elk herds and created a slowdown in the sales of hunting tags and economics of elk hunting.

“If you’re looking for cost benefits you remove an entire pack,” Gould said. “We’re trying to stabilize the trend with the long-term goal of (elk) recovery.”


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