USFWS Update, November 2021

Mesha R. Wood (she/her/hers)

Park Ranger, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 


Fall is for Antlers… 

 During the fall we often talk about migrating birds, the leaves changing colors and the caching of acorns by Scrub jays and other animals, however, fall is also for numerous antlered species, including Columbian White-tailed deer (CWTD) and Roosevelt elk both of which call our Refuge Complex home. 


Most of you may know that CWTD are present at Ridgefield NWR now after first being translocated to the Refuge in 2013 from Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed deer. While I await the annual survey of just how many deer the Refuge is now home to, I can say that at the least, should you visit the River ‘S’ Unit, you are very likely to see one. As we continue to manage the refuge for the success of this species, you may notice that in the fall, antlers may begin to grow on younger deer and large bucks with full racks (adult sized antlers) may be seen. 


The other day, as Josie Finley, Visitor Services Manager for the refuge, was leaving the site, Josie and her daughter were able to watch two large bucks from the comfort of their car along the Auto Tour Route and that her young daughter was mesmerized. So if you visit, keep a look out for sure. 


What many of you might know is that Pierce NWR is home to a standing population of Roosevelt elk as well.  Of the four subspecies of elk that remain in the U.S., Roosevelt elk are the largest with cows often weighing in between 600-700 lbs while a buck can weigh up to 1100 lbs according to the National Park Service. They are large  in size and require open spaces so Pierce NWR is great habitat for them. Lucky for you too ,  because you just might see the elk if you happen to look east over the refuge from the top of Beacon Rock State Park. 

© Friends of Ridgefield NWR, CWTD Buck in field of grass


 

Question of the Month 

To learn more about "antlers" visit the Antler Photo Essay on them.  Here you will find the answer to the question of the month. 

How Much Do Antlers Grow Each Day?

              1.  A foot.

               2.  A few centimeters

               3.  An inch

               4.  It is unknown.  

Answer found in the essay:  Factoid 4: Antlers can grow up to an inch per day, among the fastest-growing animal tissue on the planet. “That growth rate is generally true for elk, and probably true for deer and caribou,” says National Elk Refuge wildlife biologist Eric Cole. “Moose antlers exhibit a palmate growth pattern that does not lend itself to this measurement.” 


And we should mention that fall is also for MUD…  

At with my last site visit, with rain comes mud…and with mud comes opportunities to look for animal tracks. New ones spotted this week include some friends we might often also see in our own backyards…a raccoon (back feet tracks shown). 

©USFWS, Raccoon tracks in mud with black boot by for size comparison

 


Steigerwald Reconnection Project

 As mentioned above, mud is present for sure! With rainy weather means some work will require a pause until the ground freezes or dries out.


USFWS, lead project contractors, the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, and Gorge Refuge Stewards representatives attempted to get out on the site in late October to access a new feature to the trail system that the Gorge Refuge Stewards have been working to provide; a new viewing blind. However, the area proposed for it to be was not accessible at this time. With soft grounds it was too much even for a UTV to pass (and I hear that is after they were splashed a bit by mud!). But that doesn’t mean the plan isn’t moving forward. 


The Gorge Stewards have had a long time vision of adding a viewing blind to the amenities at Steigerwald NWR to offer a more intimate experience while observing wildlife without disturbing them. The current location proposed for the blind is along the seasonal trail, overlooking the wetlands. The Board has worked over the years to secure funding for the project, develop a concept design and create the final blind design, and work with the USFWS to make sure the plan fits both Refuge and community needs, and gain approval from the Columbia Gorge Scenic Commission for the project. As part of the scenic area and in alignment with the desire to have the blind fit the natural setting, the design will have native vegetation planted around it to help disguise it from the surrounding vantage points.  


While viewing blinds are great for watching migratory birds like waterfowl, they can be great places to view other species that use the wetlands as well. At Ridgefield, the viewing blind  is located part way around the River S Unit auto tour route just before the Kiwa Trail.  The blind offers wonderful views of swans and various ducks in winter as the wetlands fill and large plots of wapato in the summer.  


We are so grateful for our partnership with the Gorge Stewards and all they do to support the Gorge Refuges. We hope to highlight their successes and contributions in a future blog to showcase their dedication to connecting people to nature .


Around The Complex

 A reminder that as the days get shorter, so does the Refuge operating hours. The Refuges are open sunrise to sunset (both Ridgefield and Steigerwald when it reopens next spring). When planning a trip, it is always best practice to check the gate for the closing time posted and to plan accordingly.  


You can also find the posted gate times on the official USFWS websites. While you might want to bookmark that link for now, come January  2022 the official websites for the Refuge Complex will be changing to a new system and a new look and functionality. 


One goal we hope to achieve thorough this change is to make sure the information you need as a visitor and supporter of the Refuge is easy to find and increase awareness about the resources and engagement opportunities Refuges provide. 


Some of the updates we are trying to provide, not only on our websites but throughout all communication we develop, are to better help people understand what to expect when they visit. We are working with various partners and engaging with local communities to learn these needs so that our sites can better serve all communities.  


Screenshot of the Ridgefield NWR home page with the Alert where gate times are posted on the bottom right hand side of the images. 

©USFWS 

 


To read past updates from Ranger Mesha, visit our archive page here.


USFWS Update, November 2021

Mesha R. Wood (she/her/hers)

Park Ranger, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 


Fall is for Antlers… 

 During the fall we often talk about migrating birds, the leaves changing colors and the caching of acorns by Scrub jays and other animals, however, fall is also for numerous antlered species, including Columbian White-tailed deer (CWTD) and Roosevelt elk both of which call our Refuge Complex home. 


Most of you may know that CWTD are present at Ridgefield NWR now after first being translocated to the Refuge in 2013 from Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed deer. While I await the annual survey of just how many deer the Refuge is now home to, I can say that at the least, should you visit the River ‘S’ Unit, you are very likely to see one. As we continue to manage the refuge for the success of this species, you may notice that in the fall, antlers may begin to grow on younger deer and large bucks with full racks (adult sized antlers) may be seen. 


The other day, as Josie Finley, Visitor Services Manager for the refuge, was leaving the site, Josie and her daughter were able to watch two large bucks from the comfort of their car along the Auto Tour Route and that her young daughter was mesmerized. So if you visit, keep a look out for sure. 


What many of you might know is that Pierce NWR is home to a standing population of Roosevelt elk as well.  Of the four subspecies of elk that remain in the U.S., Roosevelt elk are the largest with cows often weighing in between 600-700 lbs while a buck can weigh up to 1100 lbs according to the National Park Service. They are large  in size and require open spaces so Pierce NWR is great habitat for them. Lucky for you too ,  because you just might see the elk if you happen to look east over the refuge from the top of Beacon Rock State Park. 

© Friends of Ridgefield NWR, CWTD Buck in field of grass


 

Question of the Month 

To learn more about "antlers" visit the Antler Photo Essay on them.  Here you will find the answer to the question of the month. 

How Much Do Antlers Grow Each Day?

              1.  A foot.

               2.  A few centimeters

               3.  An inch

               4.  It is unknown.  

Answer found in the essay:  Factoid 4: Antlers can grow up to an inch per day, among the fastest-growing animal tissue on the planet. “That growth rate is generally true for elk, and probably true for deer and caribou,” says National Elk Refuge wildlife biologist Eric Cole. “Moose antlers exhibit a palmate growth pattern that does not lend itself to this measurement.” 


And we should mention that fall is also for MUD…  

At with my last site visit, with rain comes mud…and with mud comes opportunities to look for animal tracks. New ones spotted this week include some friends we might often also see in our own backyards…a raccoon (back feet tracks shown). 

©USFWS, Raccoon tracks in mud with black boot by for size comparison

 


Steigerwald Reconnection Project

 As mentioned above, mud is present for sure! With rainy weather means some work will require a pause until the ground freezes or dries out.


USFWS, lead project contractors, the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, and Gorge Refuge Stewards representatives attempted to get out on the site in late October to access a new feature to the trail system that the Gorge Refuge Stewards have been working to provide; a new viewing blind. However, the area proposed for it to be was not accessible at this time. With soft grounds it was too much even for a UTV to pass (and I hear that is after they were splashed a bit by mud!). But that doesn’t mean the plan isn’t moving forward. 


The Gorge Stewards have had a long time vision of adding a viewing blind to the amenities at Steigerwald NWR to offer a more intimate experience while observing wildlife without disturbing them. The current location proposed for the blind is along the seasonal trail, overlooking the wetlands. The Board has worked over the years to secure funding for the project, develop a concept design and create the final blind design, and work with the USFWS to make sure the plan fits both Refuge and community needs, and gain approval from the Columbia Gorge Scenic Commission for the project. As part of the scenic area and in alignment with the desire to have the blind fit the natural setting, the design will have native vegetation planted around it to help disguise it from the surrounding vantage points.  


While viewing blinds are great for watching migratory birds like waterfowl, they can be great places to view other species that use the wetlands as well. At Ridgefield, the viewing blind  is located part way around the River S Unit auto tour route just before the Kiwa Trail.  The blind offers wonderful views of swans and various ducks in winter as the wetlands fill and large plots of wapato in the summer.  


We are so grateful for our partnership with the Gorge Stewards and all they do to support the Gorge Refuges. We hope to highlight their successes and contributions in a future blog to showcase their dedication to connecting people to nature .


Around The Complex

 A reminder that as the days get shorter, so does the Refuge operating hours. The Refuges are open sunrise to sunset (both Ridgefield and Steigerwald when it reopens next spring). When planning a trip, it is always best practice to check the gate for the closing time posted and to plan accordingly.  


You can also find the posted gate times on the official USFWS websites. While you might want to bookmark that link for now, come January  2022 the official websites for the Refuge Complex will be changing to a new system and a new look and functionality. 


One goal we hope to achieve thorough this change is to make sure the information you need as a visitor and supporter of the Refuge is easy to find and increase awareness about the resources and engagement opportunities Refuges provide. 


Some of the updates we are trying to provide, not only on our websites but throughout all communication we develop, are to better help people understand what to expect when they visit. We are working with various partners and engaging with local communities to learn these needs so that our sites can better serve all communities.  


Screenshot of the Ridgefield NWR home page with the Alert where gate times are posted on the bottom right hand side of the images. 

©USFWS 

 


To read past updates from Ranger Mesha, visit our archive page here.