It's a joint wildlife
research project conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife and the USDA Forest Service at the Starkey Experimental
Forest and Range, 28 miles southwest of La Grande, Oregon. The project
is designed to measure the population response of deer and elk to
the intensively managed forests and rangelands of the future. Research
began in 1989 and will continue for 10 years.
Results are expected
to provide definitive information about deer and elk response to
habitat changes associated with timber and livestock management,
motorized traffic, hunting, and other recreation. The research investment
will yield results expected to guide land use decisions into the
21st century. These land use decisions will affect local, regional
and national economies.
Public hunting is allowed.
Deer and elk hunts are administered as controlled hunts by the Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife. Controlled hunts are listed for
the Starkey Experimental Forest in the Department's Big Game Regulations.
Hunters help shape the population structure of the herds and provide
samples from the harvested animals to meet study goals. Deer and
elk are subject to the same type of hunting pressure that exists
outside the enclosure.
It's an eight-foot-high
fence of woven wire that encircles 40 square miles, or 25,000 acres,
of the Experimental Forest. The fence is designed to keep the study
animals within the study area and exclude other animals from entering.
Developed by red deer ranchers in New Zealand, the fence is able
to contain elk and deer with minimal injury. The woven wire is strong
yet flexible enough to allow the strands to move and bend on impact.
If animals run into it, the fence acts like a trampoline.
HOW CAN THE RESEARCH
SEETING BE "NATURAL" IF THE ANIMALS ARE IN A "PEN?"
One of the biggest advantages
of the enclosure is its size: 40 square miles is an area larger
than the summer home range of most deer and elk; consequently animals
inside the area are living under conditions similar to wild, fee-ranging
herds. The enclosure is small enough, however, to provide many of
the experimental controls of a penned study. The area also contains
vegetation, terrain, and other habitat features typical of many
National Forests of the Intermountain West.
WILL THE ENCLOSURE
REMAIN AFTER THE RESEARCH IS FINISHED?
The fence was designed
and installed with specifications that allow it to stand for 30
years with minimal maintenance and repairs. Whether the fence remains
after the first 10 years of research depends on the experience with
this type of research facility. That was made clear in public presentations
and in the environmental analysis before the project started. The
area has been dedicated for research since 1940 by the forest Service.
With the addition of the enclosure it has become a world-class forestry,
range, and wildlife research facility. The life of the enclosure,
however, depends on circumstances at the end of the 10 years of
HOW DO YOU MONITOR
THE USE BY CATTLE, DEER, AND ELK?
Animals are tracked to
document habitat use in relationship to habitat changes and human
activities. Movements are monitored 24 hours a day from April to
December with an automated animal tracking system. The system automatically
locates radio collared animals with the use of Loran-C technology
and computers. This system is an accurate, efficient, and cost-effective
method for monitoring animal movements.
WON'T DEER AND ELK
ADAPT TO THE PRESENCE OF RESEARCHERS AND BECOME SEMI-TAME, ESPECIALLY
AFTER THE ANIMALS ARE ARTIFICIALLY FED DURING THE WINTER?
Wild, hunted herds of
deer and elk throughout the western United States are often fed
during severe winters when natural forage is not available. Research
animals at Starkey are treated no differently. Like many free-ranging
herds, they are fed during the winter, but are subjected to a wide
array of human disturbances the rest of the year as part of the
research -- including road building, road traffic, logging, cattle
grazing, hunting, and other recreational activities that are traditional
uses of National Forests. Deer and Elk have not become "semi-tame"
on summer ranges in other areas where these activities are common.