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Elk Head CONSERVATION
Native fish, wildlife and their habitat
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American Martin

The American, or pine, marten can still be found in some of Oregon’s high forests. USFWS photo. Click Photo to Enlarge.

On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

March 2011

This month, while most conservationists are gearing up for spring and summer field seasons, biologists in the South Cascades are wrapping up winter surveys.

CONTENTS


Seeking Rare Carnivores in the Umpqua National Forest

Bobcat

A bobcat captured on a Forest Service trail camera in January. USFS photo. Click Photo to Enlarge.

The fisher, North American wolverine and American, or pine, marten, all members of the weasel family, live in Oregon’s wild places and as those places disappear, the species decline.

”Fisher and marten are forest-dependent and while we are concerned about them, we do have known populations,” said Martin Nugent, ODFW Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Species coordinator. “The wolverine is dependent on mountain/alpine habitat and is only a rare occasional visitor to Oregon. It was considered extirpated at one point.”

There is potential habitat for all three of the species in the Umpqua National Forest just west of the crest of the Cascades, and Justin Hadwen, Wildlife Technician, Diamond Lake Ranger District, is conducting surveys to determine which of the species use the area.

“We are just wrapping up the winter carnivore survey. We found lots of marten and have a couple of photos which might be a fisher. We deployed hair snares to try and confirm it, but we didn’t get a positive identification,” he said.

No wolverines were photographed, but according to Hadwen, “It’s possible they are out there. There are wolverines in the North Cascades in Washington and south of us in the Sierra Nevada. So, our hope is we’ll find one here—they have amazingly large ranges.”

“We have reports every year that someone has seen a wolverine, usually in the winter when they would be easier to see,” said Terry Farrell, ODFW Wildlife biologist in Roseburg. “And we keep hoping that we are going to document one.”

Martin

A number of marten were detected during the winter carnivore study. USFS photo. Click Photo to Enlarge.

Farrell who worked with Justin providing bait, snowmobiles and support calls the project “a great cooperative effort that helps us understand the occurrence and density of our rare carnivores.”

“It’s important to know what areas these species use when we are planning forest management projects,” said Hadwen, who uses heat activated digital trail cameras to record the mammals. “Their presence or absence can be an indicator of forest health and habitat connectivity.”

ODFW’s Nugent agrees. “With the threats of habitat loss and fragmentation and climate change, knowing what species we have and where they are is important information.”

Contact Justin, jhadwen@fs.fed.us

How to Survey for Fisher, Marten and Wolverine

U.S. Forest Service wildlife technician, Justin Hadwen, isn’t going anywhere if not in a four-wheel drive truck. This day in late March, he is headed out of Roseburg through Canyonville and Tiller and into the Southern Cascades to retrieve the last four of eighteen cameras he used for the winter carnivore survey. The rustic buildings of the Tiller Forest Service compound are not long out of view when the srain begins to mix with snow and the unpaved road heads straight uphill.

Justin Hadwen

Justin Hadwen, U.S. Forest Service, retrieved the last of his field cameras in March. ODFW photo. Click to enlarge.

The first camera is in a thicket of mixed conifer forest dotted with an occasional oak. Hadwen points to the strip of orange plastic tape tied to a tree branch eight or ten feet off the ground that marks the roadside location of the camera. “Shows you where the snowpack was when we came in here the first time.”

They came, first, in November, he and Tiller Ranger District Wildlife Biologist Kevin Sands, packing beaver carcasses, cameras, chicken wire and fence nails. Setting up a camera site takes some thought. It has to be far enough from the road to avoid disturbance. Habitat has to be evaluated and a triad of trees chosen: the beaver carcass encased in chicken wire is attached to the side of a tree about four feet off the ground and the trail camera is mounted to another tree five or six feet away. A small package that contains a potent concoction of beaver musk is hung in a third tree to attract animals to the site.

“We do these surveys in the winter for a number of reasons. Bears are generally hibernating so your bait lasts longer and the carnivores we are interested in are moving around,” said Hadwen. “They can smell the bait about a half mile out.”

Collecting the cameras takes most of day and involves a little bushwhacking, a little road clearing and a little spring snow, but compared with the cold weather and heavy snows that dominated the winter survey season, it’s relatively easy—and there is always the anticipation of what the downloaded images will reveal about life in the forest, absent humans.

Dependent on funding, Hadwen is hoping to repeat the survey next year. “As a biologist, you want to know what’s out there before you make any management decisions.”

Funding for this year’s project came from the U.S. Forest Service. ODFW provided technical support. Beaver carcasses were acquired from trappers.

Justin Hadwen explains survey site set up. ODFW video, 20 sec. Click to view larger.

For more information about the weasel family in Oregon, visit the USFS website.

The American Marten

The American, or pine marten, is an Oregon state sensitive species; remaining populations exist in parts of the Cascade and Coast ranges and the Klamath, Blue and Wallowa mountains. An ancient species, ancestral martens are believed to have crossed into present-day Alaska across the Bering land bridge from Siberia during the ice ages.

The marten is a forest species—an indicator species for forest health and diversity. It prefers mature, wet old-growth forests, but will use multi-layer conifer forests that have lots of downed trees and snags. Active year round, martens are long and sleek with little body fat so availability of winter prey is critical to their survival. Suggested conservation actions include avoiding fragmentation of preferred habitat, preserving downed trees and snags and provide connectivity between desirable forested habitats.

For more information, see Land Mammals of Oregon, B.J. Verts and Leslie N. Carraway and the Oregon Conservation Strategy species accounts.

ONE SMALL THING

It’s officially spring: Time to clean out last year’s songbird box (make sure no one is home), put up feeders for the summer hummers and check around your home, attic, roof and crawl space to make sure critters don’t move in. Visit the Living with Wildlife section of ODFW’s website to learn how to keep wildlife wild and outside.
American Martin

The American marten is active year round. Photo Cody Connor. Click to enlarge.

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ABOUT THE OREGON CONSERVATION STRATEGY
The Oregon Conservation Strategy provides a blueprint and action plan for the long-term conservation of Oregon’s native fish and wildlife and their habitats through a non-regulatory, statewide approach to conservation. It was developed by ODFW with the help of a diverse coalition of Oregonians including scientists, conservation groups, landowners, extension services, anglers, hunters, and representatives from agriculture, forestry and rangelands.

EDITOR
Meg Kenagy
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
(503) 947-6021
meg.b.kenagy@state.or.us

To subscribe or unsubscribe, please e-mail the editor. Note: The use of trade, firm or corporation names and links in this publication is for the information of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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