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    Mule deer populations in central Oregon are in decline, largely because of habitat loss. Several factors are likely contributors. Encroaching juniper and invasive cheatgrass are replacing deer forage with high nutritional value, such as bitterbrush and sagebrush. Fire suppression and reduced timber harvests mean fewer acres of early successional forest, which also offer forage opportunities. Human development, including homes and roads, is another factor. It is this one that scientists with the Pacific Northwest Research Station and their collaborators investigated in a recent study. As part of an interagency assessment of the ecological effects of resort development near Bend, Oregon, researchers examined recent and potential development rates and patterns and evaluated their impact on mule deer winter range. They found that residential development in central Oregon is upsetting traditional migratory patterns, reducing available habitat, and possibly increasing stress for mule deer. Many herds of mule deer spend the summer in the Cascade Range and move to lower elevations during the winter. An increasing number of buildings, vehicle traffic, fencing, and other obstacles that accompany human land use are making it difficult for mule deer to access and use their winter habitat. The study provides valuable information for civic leaders, land use planners, and land managers to use in weighing the ecological impact of various land use decisions in central Oregon.

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Kline, Jeff, Oliver, Marie. 2012. Seasonal neighbors: residential development encroaches on mule deer winter range in central Oregon. Science Findings 140. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 6 p.


    mule deer, residential development, central Oregon

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