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Deschutes County working on update to 30-year-old wildlife zones, to better protect mule deer habitat

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- With more people moving into Deschutes County, some animal habitats are being threatened.

Among the most common species are mule deer, which county Senior Planner Tanya Saltzman said are "declining at a relatively rapid rate," as NewsChannel 21 reported recently.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the mule deer population decreased about 40% near Metolius and about 30% near Paulina in a recent three-year testing period.

According to Saltzman, the county's current Wildlife Area Combining Zone for mule deer hasn't been updated since the 1992. In collaboration with the ODFW, a study conducted last year identified land uses that adversely affect wildlife.

To combat the issue of what ODFW calls "high human use and disturbance," Saltzman said ODFW recommends that certain uses be prohibited or limited to protect the mule deer winter range habitats.

Loud noises, and physical blockages such as fences are a couple examples Saltzman said qualifies as high human use and disturbance.

Currently, Saltzman said they are evaluating zoning codes and updating the comprehensive plan to expand the borders for designated mule deer habitat.

The update proposes a 60% increase, making the WACZ a little over 500,000 acres.

Although mule deer can always be spotted outside the combing zone, Saltzman points out that it doesn't necessarily mean they're in their significant deer habitat, and the objective is to protect just that.

“We’re proposing the zoning will expand, and then within that, there’s rules," Saltzman said.

There's still much to be hashed out in the drafting, mapping and amendment process, but Saltzman said there will be rules around fencing.

The project started a year ago, and Saltzman said it’s been fostering support, but not without challenge.

“Constantly trying to achieve a balance, so you’re achieving a balance of conservation of these species," Saltzman said. "These species are often why people move here. It’s part of the habitat, it’s part of the beauty of the area. But then there's also recognizing property rights. You know, the zoning code allows people to do certain things with their properties, and there are expectations that people have.”

A pilot project outlining proposed revised zoning for mule deer winter range will be presented to county commissioners in July. There will also be public information sessions that Saltzman encourages people to attend during the summer. More information is available here:

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.



    1. You’re wrong. There was an article a few months back featured on KZ21 regarding the population of mule deer, significantly decreasing in Central Oregon. Actually, Bend has such a great influx of people moving here. We have more people now than we can really handle, and wildlife forests are being destroyed to accommodate the mass influx of people coming here.

    1. How about the abundance and expansion of mountain bike trails. Today almost anyone can jump on an electric bike and travel the most anywhere. If you think bikes don’t have impact on wildlife …. you’re mistaken.

  1. Are they planning zones where cougars are not allowed? Deer seem to coexist just fine with humans. A little stroll through most any Bend city neighborhood will confirm that. However, deer don’t seem to get along well with the exploding number of cougars over the last couple of decades.

    1. Agreed! Predators are killing off the mule deer population with the natural selection of fawns and yearlings. They need to bring back hound hunting for a term and put limits on it. Allow hounds for 2 years and then 2 years of no hounds. The decrease in apex predators week allow the mule deer population to grow.

  2. Stop advertising for people to MOVE TO BEND, OREGON and building resorts and things will get better for the deer. Less people and housing = less traffic = more deer.

  3. Back in the 70’s the ODFW put a moratorium on deer hunting to help get the deer population built back up. Perhaps it’s time to do it again.

  4. Clearing China Hat squatters would be good for the mule deer population too, along with many other critters. But yeah, lets continue putting constraints on citizens already abiding by stacks and stacks of regulations. Hey here’s a novel idea, what if we made it cheaper and easier for people to build on their properties without making it more difficult. Local Dems need to quit siding with the rich landowner ‘enviromentalists’ and give the rest of us a chance.

  5. The areas where the deer are really taking a beating are outside of town…where the highest volume of cougars and other predators live. In the 80’s you could drive out China Hat Rd to Pine Mountain and see 200 deer in 20 miles. Now, you see very few. Sad to see.

  6. I remember hearing the pipe companies and regulators say they’re were gonna put guzzlers west of hwy 20 between Sisters and Bend to keep the deer from crossing the highway looking for water, because of all the collisions that were happening. The drinkers never happened and they’re are no springs out there, so the deer cross to the reservoirs and get hit

  7. Typical government run operations………..ignore the facts, spend tax dollars on useless studies, and make up solutions to further restrict and regulate us.
    Loud noises and fences? This is laughable… nearly anywhere in Bend, there’s deer everywhere. Completely ignored is the fact that Oregon has the highest population of cougars in the country, so many that biologists are unable to get an accurate count, at least 6000 but most likely 8000 or even more. Each cougar kills an average of 1 deer per week = 300,000-400,000 deer being killed per year by cougars alone. It’s time to overturn the law of use of dogs and bait on cougar hunting.

  8. Seems to me that the county is a little late on this issue. The west side of town used to be prime habitat but now it is full of people and their “needs”. Way back when – 50 + years ago – we used to go out around Skeleton cave and be able to get pickup loads of shed antlers, but not anymore. At one time, it was easy to spot hundreds if not thousands of deer in a drive around Pine Mountain, China Hat, East Butte, Fox Butte, and back to Millican, but not anymore. It used to be the Interstate herd of deer was the largest migratory herd in the USA, but not anymore. I am not sure what changed but I do not think ODFW is doing things right either. I do know that the price for hunting has gone through a lot of changes with tags and licenses, I see a lot of new rigs parked at the ODFW offices – both state-owned and private rides – so I know they are not hurting for funds. I do know there are a lot more restrictions on hunters than ever before. One thing I would like to see is the state of Oregon start charging more for non-resident licenses and tags, at least equal to the state you are coming from.

    1. “… I see a lot of new rigs parked at the ODFW offices … ”
      Like almost all state agencies, ODFW does not own its fleet. Those vehicles belong to Oregon Department of Administrative Services(DAS). DAS supplies vehicles to agencies based on job requirements for a specific need. Agencies reimburse DAS for the use of the vehicles. DAS replaces worn out rigs when maintenance costs exceed value. ODFW does own some specialized rigs (like hatchery trucks).

      As for “private rides” …. that’s none of our business.

  9. There should be a moratorium to stop any further development for the influx of people moving here from other States. No more housing developments. This is not Portland. Other States are able to have moratoriums to stop further development of huge Corporations or further housing developments. Stop advertising this town as a mecca of jobs and housing for all. Bend cannot handle growing as big as Portland, U my Eugene, or Salem. Maybe as Tomd Said about trucking deer out of here, mama maybe it should be all the influx influx of people that have recently moved here. The problem is with these city officials, Development codes can be changed at a drop of the hat if the money’s right.

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