The fact that so many young people flee Wahkiakum County for Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver is a source of great sadness to old-timers there, so I found it darkly ironic when federal Fish and Wildlife officials decided to move about half of a population of 100 endangered Columbian White-tailed deer to a refuge in one of the far-flung Clark County ex-burbs of Portland.
Even the deer are moving to the city.
The deer are sort of literally caught between a rock and a hard place – The deer refuge, which is sandwiched between a highway and a river, is in imminent danger of being flooded when a poorly maintained, badly eroded dike inevitably breaks, allowing the mighty Columbia to flood in.
Since bureaucratic squabbling and severe budget cuts will prevent the dike from ever being repaired, Fish and Wildlife ultimately decided to capture the deer and move them elsewhere.
I was there for a fascinating day extended waiting and radioing inside a FWS car, followed by sudden flurry of activity, as a net dropped, and biologists came barreling across a field to disentangle, examine and prepare the buck they’d captured.
The work was seriously physical, and potentially dangerous for all parties involved. The biologists worked urgently, but in almost total silence. Almost the only sound during this process was the surprisingly powerful, deep grunting of the buck, who was basically basically being submitted to the large-mammal version of an alien abduction.
Tomorrow, the biologists will try an even more dramatic tactic – Using a helicopter to buzz the deer out of the bushes, hopefully speeding up the process of moving 50 white-tailed deer to the ‘burbs.