Yellowstone Favorite Places: WPC

I have so many Yellowstone favorite places it’s hard to choose. Here’s a collection of photos of things that make the park special. I start this post with a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt who was known as the “conservation president.”

“The only way that the people as a whole can secure to themselves and their children the enjoyment in perpetuity of what the Yellowstone Park has to give is by assuming the ownership in the name of the nation and by jealously safeguarding and preserving the scenery, the forests, and the wild creatures.”

Theodore Roosevelt, April 24, 1903 at the laying of the cornerstone of Gateway to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Favorite Places Mammoth Hot Springs 2017Yellowstone National Park, with its larger-than-life landscapes, dramatically changing weather conditions, amazing menagerie of wildlife, variety of plant life, and geology in action, is one of my favorite places. It also has a rich history as the world’s first national park.

A park is born

Evidence shows ancient peoples lived in Yellowstone Country 11,000 years ago. European Americans began exploring the lands in the early 1800’s. Teams of explorers brought back tales of wonder of this unique environment. Their work was supported by images created by artists Thomas Moran and Henry W. Elliot and photographer William Henry Jackson.  The park was established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. Additional protections for the park and its wildlife were instituted in 1894 when congress passed the National Park Protection Act – now known as the Lacey Act.

President Theodore Roosevelt had a love of the land and he was instrumental in making sure many natural areas were preserved. His quote above reflects the importance of preserving wild places so that all may enjoy them “in perpetuity.”

Landscapes – large and small

Here are photos of some special landscapes.

And more of spectacular hot springs and other features.

And don’t forget to notice the tiny landscapes beneath your feet.


And of course the wildlife.


Yellowstone National Park gets visitors from all over the world. 4,116,524 people visited in 2017.

Yellowstone Favorite Places 3June2015

May we all continue to safeguard and preserve its scenery, forests, and wild creatures.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Favorite Place

Beautiful Beadwork – OWPC: Museum

Messages communicated without words

I am always amazed by the beautiful beadwork on display at the High Desert Museum where I volunteer. The carefully crafted pieces represent work by tribes of the Columbia Plateau in parts of modern-day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018Tribes represented include Umatilla, Wasco, Wishram, Paiute, Washo, Chehalis, Quinault, Nez Perce, Skokomish, Chinook, Tillamook, Yakima, Warm Springs, Haida, Salish, Yaqui, and others.

Doris Swayze Bounds Collection of Native American Artifacts

They are artifacts with an emphasis on “art.” However, Native Americans in the 1700’s and 1800’s did not make art for art’s sake. Beads embellished utilitarian pieces.  Beads adorned items ranging from small handbags and knife cases, to deerskin clothing and footwear.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 9December2015The High Desert Museum houses the Doris Swayze Bounds Collection of Native American Artifacts. Born in 1904 in Oklahoma, Doris Swayze Bounds later lived in Hermiston, Oregon, where she worked as a banker. She always appreciated Native American people and their culture. Many of the pieces in the collection were gifted to her by local Native Americans as a way of showing their respect and affection to her. The artifacts date from the 1870’s to the 1960’s. The collection has many pieces, but I focused on the beadwork in this post.

A brief history of beadwork in North America

In the early 1800’s, beads used in trading with native people were referred to as “pony” beads. Transported by pack animals, the beads were limited in availability and colors. The smaller “seed” beads became widely available after about 1850. These inexpensive beads were available in larger quantities and in a wider variety of colors.

White traders thought of the beads as cheap trinkets but to native peoples, they were highly prized. The beads were valued for their beauty and durability. They also freed up time that would have gone into crafting beads from bone, shells, and other materials. The beadwork became a status symbol and a source of pride in their culture.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018Bead-working techniques vary and show ethnic membership. Colors and motifs represent different things to different tribes. If symbols are changed, such as being inverted or assembled in incorrect colors, they may show a hidden negative message. For example, an inverted American flag could have expressed displeasure with governmental policies.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018Expressions of cultural pride

The beadwork is this collection is beautiful but some pieces were made during a dark chapter in American history. The hardships native peoples endured are difficult to imagine. Beadwork allowed them to express pride in their culture when they were being forced to give up their traditional ways of life.  We are fortunate that some of their remarkable work has been preserved.

To view more of this collection and learn about Native American’s many accomplishments and challenges, visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018

Source of beadwork history information:

Logan, M. H. (2014). Brightly Beaded: North American Indian Glass Beadwork [Pamphlet]. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee, McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.

One Word Photo Challenge – Museum


A Bluebird Day? : WPC

A bluebird day in Bend, Oregon 13March2018

A bluebird of unhappiness

The mountain bluebird perched on the snag for a long time in a drenching rainstorm. While all the other birds sought shelter, he stubbornly remained on his perch. He wondered if it really was a bluebird day. The bird thought his brilliant blue plumage would attract a mate by reminding her of the sky on a sunny day. No such luck!

Weekly Photo Challenge – I’d rather be…

Where the deer and the antelope played

Celebrating a life

After living a life full of leaps and bounds, she settled down in her favorite aspen grove. The bunchgrass waved goodbye. The rabbitbrush shaded her in her final moments. The rosebush provided fruit in celebration of her life. And finally, the aspen covered her in leaves of gold.

Where the deer and the antelope played 2November2017Weekly Photo Challenge – Story

Mill A Loop – Deschutes River Trail

Short and sweet hike

Mill A Loop Deschutes River Trail 13August2016

Mill A Loop Deschutes River Trail

The Mill A Loop is a short and easy hike that starts on the flag bridge in the Old Mill district of Bend. This 1.1 mile trail is paved and mostly flat. You walk along the Deschutes River for most of the hike.  At certain times of the year, kayakers, stand up paddleboarders, and innertubers will float by you on the river.


Iconic attractions

The Flag Bridge is a well-known sight in Bend. The flags are changed to celebrate different holidays and events. I am always impressed by these flags of many colors fluttering in the breeze. They also fly over a smaller pond near the restaurants.

You will walk past a few notable landmarks. Yes, you start out in a shopping center, but you’ll also go by the Les Schwab Amphitheater, Deschutes Brewery, and the Bend Whitewater Park (adjacent to McKay Park). The amphitheater is where many concerts and outdoor events take place here in Bend. Deschutes Brewery, founded in 1988, was one of the first craft brewers in the region. The brewery has a nice tasting room and guided tours. The Whitewater Park was completed in 2015 and it divides the river into three channels. One channel is for wildlife, one is for innertubers and rafters, and one is for whitewater surfers, kayakers, or paddleboarders. I have seen people out surfing in wetsuits in all kinds of weather. See my post Bend Whitewater Park for info about the park and a few videos.


Outdoor art

There is a lot of artwork on display along this route. Look for a large metal sculpture of a horse outside Tumalo Art Company close to the Flag Bridge. Be sure to take a closer look at this piece. A tall sculpture that incorporates steel wheels from one of the old lumber mills is just outside of Anthony’s restaurant. The Colorado Avenue Bridge has artwork inside and outside of the pedestrian tunnel.  The amphitheater has beautiful murals on both sides of the stage. On the east side of the Whitewater Park, there is a tall metal sculpture that was designed as a perch for kingfishers. There is a sculpture of a group of Canada geese on the west side of the river.

Flora and Fauna

I have to mention the beautiful flowers in the landscaping along this route. I really like the blooming border plants on the west side of the amphitheater. They are gorgeous in the spring and summer months. Watch for the occasional hummingbird when the flowers are in full bloom. There are also some delicious smelling hops plants near the amphitheater.

I walk this trail regularly and the types of wildlife seen varies by season. Ospreys and bald eagles can be seen near the river. Common waterfowl include Canada geese, mallards, mergansers, and American coots. You may see songbirds such as red-winged blackbirds, scrub jays, robins, cedar waxwings, and goldfinches. Swallows drift over the river in pursuit of insects. There is a beaver dam a little ways south of Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe and you may get a glimpse of them in early morning hours. I have also seen river otter and muskrats. A small population of the Oregon spotted frog breeds in this vicinity.

There is also a one-of-a-kind 12-station fly fishing course here.  You may notice circles on land and in a couple of the smaller ponds. Each station has a sign nearby and you can try your hand at various casting challenges.

Mill A Loop Deschutes River Trail 27August2017

Smokestacks from the Old Mill

A little history

This district was named Old Mill because there used to be two lumber mills located here, one on each side of the river.  The three iconic smoke stacks you see were part of a powerhouse that ran 24/7. The stacks were preserved when REI took over the space.  This spot was very important for the economy of Bend in the early 1900’s. Timber was hauled into Bend and floated in the river until processing at the Brooks-Scanlon or Shevlin-Hixon mills. The Oregon Trunk Railroad had a line that went to the mills to pick up lumber.

To see a map of this hike and others nearby, look at this brochure from Bend Parks and Recreation. The Mill A Loop is the yellow trail on the inset map. I think you will enjoy walking this easy trail, no matter what season it is.

To find out more about the Old Mill District, click here.


Silent barks: WPC

Silent barks speak with voices needing to be heard.

Silent Barks Western Juniper 8August2016Unknown worlds are tucked into their cracks and crevices.


Silent Barks Paper Birch 16February2018Layers peel away to reveal glimpses of their hearts.


Silent Barks Quaking Aspen 18November2018Their eyes gaze at us with infinite wisdom.


Silent Barks Hemlock 12February2016They sometimes wear disguises to cover up who they are.


Silent Barks Alder 3June2016But by peeking under silent barks, we learn we are all the same beneath.


Weekly Photo Challenge – Out of This World

Pronghorn herd in the High Desert

Last fall, we saw a pronghorn herd on the drive to Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in southeast Oregon. This herd consisted of about 100 bucks and does.

You can see Hart Mountain peeking out in the distance. A storm was moving in. Here are pictures of the storm as it developed. Storm Clouds over Hart Mountain.

Pronghorn herd near Hart Mountain, Oregon 1November2017

Can you find a big buck watching over his harem in this picture? Both bucks and does can have horns, though the does’ are small or sometimes absent. Males have short black manes, a neck patch, and black markings across their forehead.

Weekly Photo Challenge – A Face in the Crowd

Canutts Gems and Rockshop – Lotsa rocks!

Cool rocks – inside and out

Do you ever drive by a place a million times and think to yourself, “I’ve got to stop there one day.”  This rockshop, south of Redmond, Oregon, was one of those places for me. We finally stopped last summer.  The shop has hundreds of carefully labeled rocks inside and out.

Canutts Gem and Rockshop display room 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop display room

There are a wide variety of rocks in Central Oregon and this shop displays some of the beauties collected over the past 42 years by the owner. Owners Mel and Jerry Lindbeck obviously have a love of rocks. Mel shapes some of the rocks into spheres, bookends, and display pieces.

Canutts Gem and Rockshop 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop

Lovely displays of rocks

We have been to plenty of rock shops over the years but this one displays them in lovely ways. The front room has a couple display cabinets, a table with small rocks, and windows lined with slices of semi-transparent agate.

Canutts Gem and Rockshop displays 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop displays

The back room is filled with neatly arranged specimens. In other rock stores we have visited, dust and dirt seem to be part of the collection. Not here. The polished spheres shine and sparkle, reflecting the light. The many amazing specimens invite you to take a closer look.

Oregon rocks

This is a good place to see some of the rock native to this area. Inside you can see thundereggs, petrified wood, jasper, agate, obsidian, and less common things such as Hampton green petrified wood. Outside you will see some of these same types of rock in boulder-size specimens. You will also see smaller specimens of some of the rocks in water-filled birdbaths that bring out their color. Rough rock is also on display outside in big piles.

Canutts Gem and Rockshop outside displays 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop outside displays

And more rocks…

Canutts Gem and Rockshop outside displays 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop outside displays

Though most of the rock is from Central Oregon in this shop, there are specimens from elsewhere as well. Pyrite, malachite (one of my favorites), lapis lazuli, copper, quartz, and fossils are all represented. Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to see the owner’s sense of humor about a special fossil in their collection.

So if you like rocks, think about stopping at this roadside attraction on Highway 97. To find out more about the shop, go to Canutts Gems and Rockshop.



Canutts Gem and Rockshop roadside sign 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop roadside sign

Please support our local businesses and buy rocks for yourself, friends, and family. Remember, a rock makes a special gift that lasts forever.

Sweet mutt

A sweet story

We adopted our dog, Tesla, a year ago and she is a sweet mutt. She was at a local Humane Society shelter as a young puppy as part of a litter of ten. Each puppy in this litter from Warm Springs, Oregon was given a temporary name that started with a “C.” A loving family adopted her and gave her a new name. Unfortunately, they had to return her due to their circumstances. We drove an hour through a snowstorm and walked into the shelter in Madras a half an hour after she was dropped off. She was stressed out and nervous when we met her but we knew she was the one for us.

She is a Heinz 57 mix of breeds with a very sweet personality. Tesla was a star student in her obedience class. As you can probably tell from the photos, she is kind of goofy. She likes to play with her toys while standing on her head. Her ears are sometimes up, sometimes down, or sometimes one is up while the other is down. Tesla still loves to chase her very long tail – even though she is almost two-years old.

Cartoon character modeled after our dog?

I recently saw the kid’s movie “Coco” and Tesla really reminded me of the dog, Dante,  featured in the film. It was a good movie with wonderful animation.  In the movie, the dog ends up being more important than he first appears to be. Here’s a short video about the dog in the movie. Dante’s Lunch – A Short Tail 

What’s in a name?

Why the name Tesla? One reason is she is very fast. Here’s a short video of her in action. She LOVES to play outside!

Our dog has had three names in her short life but has found her forever home with us. Please consider adopting from a shelter if you are looking for a new best friend. To find a shelter near you, go to The Shelter Project.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Sweet


Tour of Bend

The Weekly Photo Challenge this week is Tour Guide. This will be easy!

Enjoy some pictures of beautiful sights in and around Bend, Oregon. Can you see why I love living here?

JanuarySunrise 6January2018

Sketching Raptors Workshop

Drawing from a different perspective

Great horned owl at High Desert Museum 20January2018

Great horned owl

On January 20, visitors entered Classroom A at the High Desert Museum to find the room filled with lifelike mounts of raptors. One mount depicted a California quail being chased by a sharp-shinned hawk. Another was of a great horned owl perched on a branch. A golden eagle mount, with outstretched wings, dwarfed the other birds on display. Artist Ian Factor welcomed participants in the workshop and everyone got to work sketching the birds. Curator of Art and Community Engagement Andries Fourie also attended and offered help when needed.

Siobhan's Drawing Kit 20January2018

My fancy drawing kit

Various art supplies were available for our use. Many attendees brought their own supplies neatly tucked into special cases. Others, like me, had the bare essentials, so we were grateful more were provided.

Drawing from reference materials

A variety of reference materials were displayed. There was a collection of bird wings, talons, and skulls. An articulated bird skeleton stood on a tabletop. We learned the basic form of our subjects by looking at mounts prepared by American Kestrel study by Siobhan Sullivan © 2018taxidermists. Though not available at this workshop, study skins, or museum mounts, are often utilized for research and artistic purposes. Photographs can help when you’re doing wildlife art and participants were snapping a lot of pictures. Reference materials are helpful in getting the details right and in understanding the underlying anatomy.

This workshop, like most hosted by the Museum, was open to people of all skill levels. Some attending the event were beginners, while others were more advanced. The artists drew the birds with a variety of media.  Several sketched in black-and-white with pencils, graphite, or charcoal; other participants added color with pastels and colored pencils.

Drawing from life

Red-tailed hawk by Siobhan Sullivan 2018 ©Drawing from life can be much more challenging. When sketching in a natural setting, you have to work fast to capture the essence of the bird. In this workshop, we sketched a live red-tailed hawk and great horned owl from the Museum’s collection. The hawk was quiet and basically stayed in one position. The owl was vocal and active the whole time. It can frustrate you when your subject doesn’t cooperate, but you have to learn to be flexible.

Participants were told to draw large shapes first then “carve down” to the details. After getting the basics down, Ian Factor advised us to capture the character of the birds. Character in this case is related to their adaptations for a predatory lifestyle and their individual personality. Wildlife Specialist Laura McWhorter provided many interesting life history facts on both of the live bird models provided for this workshop.

Participants drawing great horned owl at High Desert Museum 20January2018

Participants drawing great horned owl

Ian pointed out things each participant did well and areas that might need improvements. He was especially helpful to those new to drawing. Participants were enthusiastic about this workshop. In fact, one even asked if we could have this class every weekend.

Red-tailed hawk at High Desert Museum 20January2018

Red-tailed hawk

Do you have any ideas for art workshops at the Museum? If so, please send them to Andries Fourie at

Reprinted from the February 2018 issue of High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers working at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see issues of the newsletter, click here.


Three Creek Lake – Kayak trip

Kayaking at Three Creek Lake

This high elevation lake, 17 miles south of Sisters, Oregon, is a popular spot with visitors. Tam McArthur Rim towers over the south and west sides of the lake, making beautiful reflections at any time of the year.  As you paddle around the lake (no motorboats are allowed), you will hear creeks babbling over the rocks as they enter the lake. The water level of this natural lake is controlled by a small dam at the outlet.

Three Creek Lake near Sisters, Oregon 24September2017

We went kayaking at the lake on a cool September morning after the Labor Day crowds left. We had the lake all to ourselves. The small general store was boarded up and closed for the season. A few inches of snow were on the ground.

ThreeCreekLake3 24September2017

ThreeCreekLake4 24September2017

Ground squirrels, chipmunks, and a scattering of birds were seen along the shores. When I brought my kayak back to the car, I almost had a couple unexpected house guests. Two ground squirrels had climbed into my kayak. I circled them in the picture above to show them running away. They are certainly entertaining!

ThreeCreekLake2 24September2017A couple deer watched us from the distant shore.

ThreeCreekLake5 24September2017These two mallards had the lake to themselves.

In summer months, you’ll see and hear osprey working the lake. You’ll hear the distinctive call of nuthatches and see Clark’s nutcrackers in the trees. This lake has a narrow border of sedges and the plants don’t offer as much cover as other lakes nearby.

ThreeCreekLake6 24September2017About Three Creek Lake

ThreeCreekLake8 24September2017This 28-acre lake has a depth of 11-28 feet. It is at an elevation of 6,550 feet and water temperatures stay cool throughout the year. Eastern brook trout and rainbow trout inhabit this lake. The rainbow trout are stocked in the lake but the brook trout are self-sustaining. Though you can fish from shore, most people fish from boats. Trolling with a flat fish lure from a kayak landed us a nice pan-size rainbow trout. Most fish here average around ten inches. For more on fishing, click here.

There’s a primitive boat launching area with limited parking at Three Creek Lake. A Northwest Forest Pass is required here. You can rent a boat from the Three Creek Lake Store but the store is only open from July to Labor Day in September.

ThreeCreekLake7 24September2017

There are three campgrounds and a hiking trailhead at the lake. Three Creek Lake Campground has 11 campsites, and it’s on the southeast side of the lake. Driftwood Campground is on the northern side of the lake and it has 18 sites. Three Creek Meadow Campground & Horsecamp is just north of the lake. That campground has nine sites for those with horses and 11 where horses are not allowed. The trailhead for the Tam McArthur Rim trail is near where the road T’s at the lake.

Common Nighthawk

Silent Sleeper

You may have heard this bird flying overhead making a “peent” call. The common nighthawk is most active in the hours around sunrise and sunset. Due to their cryptic coloration and silent behavior during the day when they roost, they can be difficult to spot.

Common Nighthawk at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Common Nighthawk at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Weekly Photo Challenge – Silence

Bridge Art – The Other Side

I have posted a couple pictures of  bridge art on one side of this bridge in Bend, Oregon. Now it’s time to show the other side. The colorful artwork brightens up these cool cloudy winter days.

Bridge of Art in Bend, Oregon 14July2017

Links showing the other side

Here’s a link to a photo of the artist, Sandy Klein, working on the paintings on the bridge – Bridge of Art.

Here’s a link that shows the completed artwork on the other side – Bridge of Art Update.

Friday Flowers

Favorite Pictures 2017

The Weekly Photo Challenge this week is Favorite. I could not select just one picture so here are a few of my favorites from the past year. Enjoy!

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah 6May2017

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah in May 2017

This one is from my most liked post of the year – Utah National Parks: Trees & Rocks. There are lots of photogenic landscapes in Utah and this post contains a photo from each of the five national parks.

Pete French Round Barn near Diamond, Oregon 13Sept2017

Pete French Round Barn near Diamond, Oregon in September 2017 (infrared)

Here is a picture of the Pete French Round Barn. This picture is in infrared and it shows off the beautiful structure of this barn. To learn more about this barn that was built in the 1880’s and to see more photos, see my post – Pete French Round Barn.

Glowing sunrise over the High Desert of Central Oregon near Bend. 18Oct2017

Glowing sunrise over the High Desert of Central Oregon near Bend in October 2017

We see plenty of stunning sunrises and sunsets in Bend, Oregon but this one in October was especially beautiful. It was taken from my yard.

Rorschach reflections on Three Creek Lake in Oregon 24Sept2017

Rorschach reflections on Three Creek Lake in Oregon in September 2017

I often notice interesting shapes and forms when out taking pictures. Here is a shot that I called Rorschach Reflections. It was taken at Three Creeks Lake near Sisters, Oregon while I was out kayaking.

Eclipse 2017 Prineville, Oregon 21August2017

The eclipse as viewed from Prineville, Oregon in August 2017

The eclipse! I drove 30 minutes away and got a perfect view of the eclipse. This was my best shot. For more on that day, see – Solar Eclipse Success.

New growth on a pine tree 23June2017

New growth on a pine tree in Bend, Oregon in June 2017

Here is a simple shot of a pine tree’s new growth last summer.

Desert primrose in landscape 29May2017

Desert primrose in landscape, Bend, Oregon in May 2017

Here’s a desert primrose blooming in my garden. I’m trying to do water wise gardening. See my post Water wise gardening: Growing more with less.

Here are a few wildlife shots. A tiger swallowtail on a brilliant flower, a herd of pronghorn beneath a “rainbow” of foliage, and a small-but-mighty western kingbird.

Newspaper Rock 2, UT 4May2017

Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock in Utah in May 2017

I will leave you with this shot of Newspaper Rock in Utah. Maybe this was the first place to blog? For more on that site, see Newspaper Rock – Ancient Messages in Stone.


Mule Deer Field Trip near Bend, Oregon

At this time of year, mule deer are migrating and breeding in Central Oregon. Your best chances of seeing this nighttime-feeding deer are in the early hours of the morning or in the late evening. On a chilly November morning, High Desert Museum Curator of Wildlife, Jon Nelson, led a group of people eager to learn more about mule deer.

Mule Deer 10June2016

Mule Deer in the West

The mule deer is uniquely adapted to the environment of the American West. In the spring and summer they browse on plants in mountainous areas. As winter approaches, mule deer pack on the calories and move to lower elevations. Deer in the Cascades migrate eastwards and have to navigate their way past Highway 97. Underpasses help large numbers of deer make that journey. As the deer continue eastwards, hundreds can be seen in the area between Silver Lake and Fort Rock during fall and winter months.

In Central Oregon, deer feed mainly on bitterbrush, Idaho fescue grass, and sagebrush. They are not as dependent on the availability of water since they get much of what they need from their diet. On the field trip, Sand Spring was one of the few water sources we saw. It’s fenced to keep cattle out but the deer, as you probably know, can easily clear most fences if they want to get a drink.

Mule Deer buck 8August2017

Should you feed deer in your yard? No. If deer eat food provided by humans, it can have devastating effects. Their gut has evolved to process certain foods. If they eat other foods, it can kill the good bacteria in their stomachs. This can cause illness or even death. Certain diseases are spread to other deer via their saliva so you may not want to give them salt licks either.

Mule deer can often be found in ecotones, edge habitats between two plant communities. They can also find their preferred food plants in areas that are becoming re-established, including those affected by fires and clear-cutting. Deer seek out certain areas using behavioral thermal regulation. For example, they bed down on south and east facing slopes where it tends to be warmer.

Mule Deer carcass 10April2017 Mule deer are adapted to living in areas with high snowfall. However, depths deeper than 20” for extended periods of time, like we had last winter, can cause many deer to die. Scavengers benefit by feeding on winter-kill deer. On this trip, we found a dead buck and bald eagles and ravens were congregating nearby to feed on it. It appeared that coyotes had been there as well.


Factors Affecting Mule Deer Population Levels

When you see numerous mule deer around Central Oregon you may assume they are doing well. That, unfortunately, is not the case. The number of mule deer in Oregon is steeply declining. In the 1960’s, there were more than 300,000 mule deer in the state; now the number is estimated to be around 200,000. On this trip, we drove south on the China Hat Road, east of the Museum. Several years ago it would have been common to see lots of deer in this area. We didn’t see many deer until we were many miles away from Bend.

DeerHabitat 18Nov2017.jpg

There are several factors contributing to declining numbers. Fences affect deer populations by excluding them from some areas and also entangling them, which can lead to injury or death. Other factors include disturbance due to more people living in and visiting the area. Activities such as OHVing, mountain biking, and hiking with off-leash dogs, disturb deer. The many roads of Deschutes National Forest (more than any other National Forest in the U.S.) help in firefighting but also bring more people into the backcountry.

Poaching is a big problem in Oregon. More deer are taken illegally than legally. Due to budget constraints, the few officers responsible for enforcing the laws must cover huge geographic areas. On January 1, 2017, fines for poaching increased. The fine for poaching a deer with four or more points on at least one antler is now $7,500. While that is a lot, some people are still willing to break the law to bag a deer.

Mule deer 18November2017

The mule deer’s iconic antlers can affect their population levels. Some hunters prefer bucks with large antlers but another type of hunter is out looking for antlers. Shed hunters look for antlers that have been shed where deer tend to congregate in the late winter and early spring. This activity disturbs the deer at a crucial time of year. Selling the antlers, priced by the pound, is a lucrative business. Some states regulate how long shed hunters are allowed to collect antlers so that deer are not disturbed in the spring, when fawns are born.

Deer are managed through hunting throughout the U.S. Here in Oregon, seasons run from September through early December. Different types of firearms and restrictions are allowed at different times of the season. Hunters report their success and this information is used to set future seasons and manage the population.

A Bit About Mule Deer Life History

Fawn at Spring Creek near Camp Sherman, OR 25June2016 SiobhanSullivanPredators also affect deer populations. Cougars are the primary predator of deer in this region. Black bears and coyotes sometimes prey on fawns. Wolves have moved into the state over the last few years and they too prey on deer. One of the ways mule deer ensure more of their young survive is through a behavior known as swamping. All of the does become pregnant at about the same time. There are so many young fawns at once that predators can’t possibly get them all.

Signpost rubbed away by deer antlers 18November2017In the fall, breeding season starts for mule deer. The hormone levels in the bucks skyrockets. Their antlers grow at the amazing rate of up to an inch per day. The bucks shed the velvet on their antlers by rubbing on trees – or unlucky signposts. Big antlers attract mates and deter other males. The slim necks mule deer have in summer, become muscular and massive. Their eyes turn red and they sometimes drool. The rutting bucks are  ready to fight any male that gets too close to their harem of does. Harems can contain 15-20 does. The does choose which bucks they want to breed with. Fawns are born in late May through June after a 212 day gestation. Once they are more than a year old, does often have twins.

Diseases That Affect Mule Deer

Mule deer have a lifespan of about ten years in the wild but their life may be shortened by disease. Two diseases affecting deer were mentioned on this field trip. Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease (AHD) is passed  through direct contact, bodily fluids, and airborne routes. Symptoms may include a blue-colored tongue, mouth ulcers, severe weight loss, and weakness. AHD affects mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, and pronghorn and is often fatal. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a disease with symptoms similar to mad cow disease. It occurs in deer, elk, moose, and reindeer and is always fatal.

You may have heard a story in the news recently about a local person cited for possessing a deer bagged in Montana. Oregon is CWD free and does not allow certain parts of deer and elk to be imported into the state from Montana, 24 other states, and one Canadian province that have the disease . Once it was determined that this particular deer had CWD, the deer meat was confiscated and every place it had been stored or disposed of had to be decontaminated. This highly contagious disease could be a serious problem here in the future.

Mule deer in garden 9August2017

So the next time you are concerned about mule deer eating your landscaping, keep in mind that their numbers are declining. Do what you can to keep them away from your most treasured plants and appreciate them for their beauty and grace.

Reprinted from High Desert Voices December 2017 newsletter. To see more issues, go here.