"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">DAYVILLE

– State land in the Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area will be

closed to all public access from Feb. 1-April 14 this year – and

for the same period in future years, officials said last week.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">The

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the closure of 25,000

acres is meant to protect wintering mule deer as part of the Mule

Deer Initiative, an effort to restore mule deer populations which

have declined in Oregon and across the West.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">Mule

deer and other wildlife struggle to maintain energy reserves in

late winter, and officials say minimizing human disturbances should

improve deer survival and fitness.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">Motor

vehicle use is already restricted on Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife

Area, but people hike in the area during winter, many of them

hunting for antlers shed by deer and elk.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">  “Late

winter and early spring is when mule deer are most vulnerable

because their energy reserves are low,” said Ryan Torland, ODFW

district biologist for Grant County. “People and pets put deer on

the move and use up energy reserves that could otherwise help them

survive the winter.”

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">Torland

said that by mid-April, when the area will reopen, big game will be

recovering from the winter and moving to their summer ranges.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">He said

shed antlers can still be found on the wildlife area then.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">The area

joins several other tracts that are closed to entry to protect

wintering big game, including the Elkhorn (North Powder) and Bridge

Creek (near Ukiah) wildlife areas. Beginning this year, all lands

west of Foothill Road on Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area (La Grande) will

also be closed to entry Feb. 1-March 31 to protect wintering

elk.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">In its

prime, nearly 30,000 mule deer wintered in the Murderers Creek

Unit, but that has declined to an estimated 5,300 today. The loss

is due to factors including severe winters, habitat changes and

predation.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">  ODFW

biologists believe habitat is the biggest factor affecting mule

deer. Juniper trees and invasive weeds like medusahead rye and

cheatgrass have replaced bitterbrush, sage-brush and other forage

that mule deer rely upon during the winter months.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">  ODFW

is working with BLM, U.S. Forest Service and partner sportsman

organizations like the Oregon Hunters Association, Foundation for

North American Wild Sheep, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Mule

Deer Foundation on steps to improve mule deer habitat over the long

term. The groups have removed juniper trees on 2,600 acres in the

Murderers Creek Unit, treated invasive weeds, planted shrubs and

created food plots for mule deer. 

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">

Officials say the habitat improvements should also benefit other

game animals and wildlife species.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">

Beginning next year, the Murderers Creek-Flagtail Travel Management

Area, which limits motor vehicle access to certain roads, will

begin three days prior to archery season (instead of three days

prior to rifle season) to further decrease disturbance to mule deer

and other wildlife. This is one of more than 60 Travel Management

Areas in Oregon that limits motor vehicle use during hunting

seasons.

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">In other

parts of the state where Mule Deer Initiative efforts are focused,

ODFW is reducing predator populations, increasing Oregon State

Police presence, and reducing hunting pressure. For more

information, visit the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">

"http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/big_game/mule_deer/MDI.asp">

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/big_game/mule_deer/MDI.asp

"margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;"> 

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