Sit Down Breakfast

A Columbian white-tailed deer sits in a meadow and eats on a rainy spring morning

A Columbian white-tailed fawn enjoys its breakfast while sitting in a meadow on a rainy spring morning at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. I got some 4K video of it too, it’s hard to see the rain in the video with the slower shutter speed but you can certainly hear it pounding down, and you can see the deer’s eating motion as it occasionally stops eating to listen. I’ll post the video once I learn how to edit it.

Through These Flooded Fields

A Columbian white-tailed deer fawn walks through a flooded field

The water levels at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge are managed to mimic the seasonal flooding from the Columbia River in the days before the dams. But this flooded field comes courtesy of an unusually wet winter, even for the Pacific Northwest. The fawn is a Columbian whitetail, born to one of the does that was transplanted in the third wave of relocations.


A Columbian white-tailed deer doe with tags in her ears

The green tags in this rain-soaked doe’s ears suggest she was part of the third wave of Columbian white-tailed deer that were captured at Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge and brought to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. She was hanging out with a group of other does from that transfer, and more importantly, their fawns, part of the reason their status has improved from endangered to threatened.


A young Columbian white-tailed deer eats in a meadow with one of his antlers fallen off

This fall the status of the Columbian white-tailed deer was improved from endangered to threatened. I’d guess this young buck, eating in a meadow beside Long Lake, is one of the offspring of deer that were captured and moved to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge as a part of the recovery efforts. I saw him in late December, one of his antlers had already fallen off but the other was not yet ready to let go.

Closely Monitored

Closely Monitored

This doe is part of the first wave of Columbian white-tailed deer that were brought to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in 2013 with the goal of establishing a permanent herd at the refuge. A second wave is planned for 2014 and a third in 2015 if needed. That’s her fawn behind her, the first generation of Columbian whitetails born at the refuge. I wasn’t going to put this image up as the dark blobs from the out-of-focus teasel are a bit distracting, but I like how clearly it shows her radio collar and ear tags and how closely monitored her movements are.

Watched & Watching

Watched & Watching

I headed up to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge yesterday for the first time in nearly a year, wondering what changes I might see, but the most unexpected change was one I saw in my rear view mirror. I had stopped along Rest Lake to photograph a couple of bitterns that were hunting near the road, but I kept having to move up to let traffic behind me through, before backing up to resume my watch.

The bitterns were soon gone but a great blue heron was slowly working its way in my direction, so I settled in to see how close it would come. I frequently checked my rear view mirror to watch for approaching cars but none came. But then in the mirror there was a slow movement of brown from one side of the road to the other, and when I swiveled my head around to look got my first glimpse of a Columbian white-tailed deer. Two of them actually, a doe and her fawn.

The doe had bright yellow tags in each ear and a large radio collar around each neck, she was one of thirty-seven that were emergency translocated earlier this year from another refuge in Washington (and one of twenty-nine that survived). Her fawn, though, belongs to the first generation born at Ridgefield. It and the other deer will be closely watched to see how they survive in their new home, as the Columbian whitetail was only recently downlisted from endangered to threatened status.

But at the moment, it was just the two of us watching each other, each seemingly as surprised as the other by the encounter.