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State helping protect crops from fire-displaced deer

State wildlife managers are working with Okanogan landowners to protect their crops from deer displaced by area wildfires and are assessing the fires’ damage to wildlife habitat.

In addition to burning hundreds of homes, the Carlton Complex fire has scorched tens of thousands of acres of habitat used by wildlife, including mule deer, wild turkeys and western gray squirrels.

“A fire of this magnitude will have both short and long-term effects on wildlife populations and the landscape and that will have implications for hunting and grazing in the area,” said Jim Brown, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s regional director.

The burned area is home to a local mule deer population and supports thousands of migratory deer during the winter. Some of the areas may still provide winter habitat depending on weather throughout this summer and fall.

Even if conditions are ideal, however, there will be too many deer for the area to support this winter and possibly for several years to come, said Scott Fitkin, district wildlife biologist in Okanogan County.

The agency is working with local property owners to stop deer from moving into orchards, hay fields and pastures to seek food and cover. It’s also helping landowners replace a limited number of fire-damaged fences and seek state and federal emergency funding.

The agency anticipates increasing the number of antlerless deer permits issued this fall and winter. Officials are also considering a winter feeding program for deer.

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