Early this week, the Oregon House and Senate passed a resolution honoring the late Raymond Moles of John Day.
The measure directs the State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Transportation to collaborate and establish a wildlife safety corridor along U.S. Highway 26 from Picture Gorge to Prairie City in Moles' memory. He was an avid outdoorsman and vocal leader on wildlife issues, and was committed to preservation of wildlife.
"Raymond Moles worked tirelessly to protect wildlife and passengers traveling on Highway 26," said state Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day), who sponsored the resolution. "This is a fitting way to honor his dedication and remember his legacy."
The resolution declares that two signs be constructed designating the wildlife safety corridor in an effort to warn drivers of the dangers of mule deer in the area. Mortality due to highway collisions are a significant contributor to the suppression of mule deer numbers in the gorge.
This highway separates critical winter range from irrigated farm fields and a stable water source, and year-long mule deer mortality is common from Prairie City to Picture Gorge. According to figures provided to the Eagle, since October 2009, 41 mule deer and two Rocky Mountain elk died in animal-vehicle collisions on U.S. 26 between Dayville and John Day.
Since 2000, more than 600 animals, mostly mule deer were found on U.S. 26 and U.S. 395 in the Murderers Creek and Northside Wildlife Management Units. The Central Oregon Mule Deer Research Project indicated that for every deer killed by collision, an additional five were struck and died off the highway right-of-way, and were not recovered. Using this as an estimate, the total number of mule deer-vehicle collisions could be as high as 1,285 deer per year, or roughly 20 percent of the end of year population estimate for the Murderers Creek deer herd.
Moles died Sept. 17, 2007, at his home in John Day.