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Peregrine Falcon near the mouth of the Nestucca River. Tim Moore photo. Click to Enlarge Photo.
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On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

March 2013

Spring equinox. The light returns.


Red Foxes in Northeast Oregon: Who’s who, What’s what? 
Short subjects
City of Albany cares for native turtles
Things are looking up for Borax Lake chub
Tax time: Support Nongame Wildlife
One small thing

Red Foxes in Northeast Oregon: Who’s who, What’s what? 

Red fox
Rocky Mountain red fox in Wallowa County. Greg Green photo.
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Red fox
Rocky Mountain red fox kit at Wallowa den site. Greg Green photo.
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Mountain red foxes have likely inhabited northeast Oregon since they arrived in North America 300,000 years ago from Siberia. After European settlement, their numbers dwindled, probably as the result of unregulated harvest and predation control. Occasionally one was seen in the higher elevations of the Wallowa Mountains. Then in the 1990s, red foxes seemed to be back, establishing in the higher valleys. Local biologists started to wonder: Were they Rocky Mountain red foxes, the subspecies of mountain red fox native to northeast Oregon, or were they nonnative red foxes that had escaped from fur farms?

It was all idle conversation until one day researcher Greg Green stopped by to visit his long-time friend ODFW wildlife biologist Leonard Erickson. “We were standing in Leonard’s yard when a fox walked through the back pasture. That’s a native fox, I thought, and we got to talking about it.”

One thing led to another and soon the friends were involved in a genetic investigation of the red fox populations of northeast Oregon. Green, who has done a lot of research on Sierra Nevada red foxes, another subspecies of mountain red fox, worked with Erickson and several others to identify fox den sites, collect hair samples and conduct DNA analysis.

DNA results were immediately interesting. The data shows that the red foxes in Wallowa, Union and Baker counties are all native Rocky Mountain red foxes, while the red foxes in Umatilla and Morrow counties in the Columbia Basin are related to nonnative Alaska red foxes found in fur farming operations, which probably originated from a fur farm release in Umatilla County.

When detailing fox den sites, the researchers found that dens from native foxes were always next to a wet meadow and within 50 meters of water, 50 meters of a building and 130 meters of an inhabited building. Interestingly, many of those residences had dogs. Green theorizes that the foxes may use the presence of humans and dogs as a shield from coyotes. Coyotes are a natural fox predator, especially of denning pups, and probably pose the greater threat.

The researchers want to expand their studies to other eastern Oregon counties to firmly establish where native and nonnative foxes occur. They are currently seeking funding for their continued research.

Contact: Greg Green,

ODFW boat inspection stations open in Oregon. ODFW photo.
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Boat inspection stations open in Oregon: Boat inspection stations at Port of Entries, highway rest stops and boat ramps across the state will target aquatic invasive species. 2013 Watercraft Inspection Stations dates and locations.

Aquatic invasive species discovered on 50 boats during 2012 Oregon inspection season: Fifty of 4,675 watercraft inspected were contaminated with aquatic invasive species; 32 had plant material and/or other non-native organisms (e.g. snails, saltwater mussels). Eighteen were contaminated with either quagga or zebra mussels. All boats were decontaminated. Additional information is available in the 2012 Oregon Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program Annual Report (pdf). Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention

City of Albany cares for native turtles

Western Painted Turtle
Western painted turtle at Natural Area.
Steve Reed photo.
Click to Enlarge Photo
East Thornton Lake Natural Area
The City of Albany is planning to make habitat improvements for native turtles at East Thornton Lake Natural Area.
Click to Enlarge Photo

East Thornton Lake Natural Area is a quiet place in the City of Albany that planners hope will be a stronghold for plants and animals that are disappearing from the Willamette Valley.

Ed Hodney, Albany Parks and Recreation Director, is working to make that vision a reality. Currently, he is managing a native turtle project with the goal of conserving the Western pond and Western painted turtles that live at the lake. Both are state sensitive species.

“We are in the middle of a two-year project that will result in a management plan,” said Hodney. “We are doing population counts and mapping nesting sites. We know part of the plan will involve invasive species removal and habitat restoration.”

Likely a remnant side channel of the Willamette River, much of Thornton Lake and the surrounding areas are privately owned. “We have great interest and support from most of the landowners. People really value this area and want to see turtles thrive here.”

East Thornton Lake has good habitat for turtles and is thought to be one of only a few places left in Oregon where breeding populations of both species exist. The area is also used by more than 50 species of birds, including western bluebirds, American bitterns, short-eared owls, western meadowlarks, green herons, and acorn and downy woodpeckers.

The Western pond and Western painted turtles are designated as sensitive species, critical, i.e. they are imperiled with extirpation from a specific geographic area because of small population sizes, habitat loss or degradation, and/or immediate threats.

Funding for the project comes from the City of Albany and an ODFW Conservation Strategy Implementation Grant through the federal State Wildlife Grant Program.

Read more about Thornton Lake’s turtles.
Contact Ed,


The only population of Borax Lake chub on the planet inhabits a natural geothermally heated 10-acre alkaline lake in Harney County in southeastern Oregon. In fact, the Borax lake chub is the only fish species that inhabits this unusual habitat.

Borax lake
Paul Sheerer, ODFW Native Fish Program, surveying for chub at Borax Lake. Alan Mauer, USFWS, photo.
Click to Enlarge Photo

In 1980, the tiny desert minnow was emergency listed under Endangered Species Act protection and in 1982, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized listing and designated Borax Lake and 640 acres of land as critical habitat. Since then, a number of partners have been working to conserve the unique species and its habitat.

According to Nancy Gilbert, USFWS Field Supervisor, the work is making a difference. “We completed a five-year review of the species in 2012 and due to the significance of the recovery actions achieved in conserving the chub and its habitat, we are recommending that its status be changed from endangered to threatened. We still have to be vigilant, of course, because some threats to the species and its habitat remain.”

Shannon Hurn, ODFW Fish biologist agrees. “ODFW will continue monitoring Borax chub and endorsing conservation actions,” she said. “Preservation of the habitat requires long-term vision due to the unique nature of the landscape.”

Key partners include The Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, university researchers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A copy of the five-year review is available on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Tax TimeTax Time: Support Nongame Wildlife

Donate to the Nongame Wildlife Fund by writing Charitable Code # 19 in the charitable donation section of your 2012 Oregon State tax returns. Funds are used to support Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitats. More information.


It’s time to stalk up on native plants: Look for beautiful, drought tolerant plants that require fewer chemicals and protect water quality. Use Clean Water Services’ Native Plant Finder to decide which plants will suit your landscape and get a free poster to help identify species. Clean Water Services.


On the Ground newsletter archives


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 voluntary, 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.

Meg Kenagy
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
(503) 947-6021

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