Elk population survey finds calf ratios up in Union County

By Dick Mason, The Observer May 11, 2012 12:21 pm

Elk in Union and Wallowa counties survived the winter of 2011-12 in good condition, according to spring Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife population surveys. JIM WARD photo
Elk in Union and Wallowa counties survived the winter of 2011-12 in good condition, according to spring Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife population surveys. JIM WARD photo

Elk and deer in Union and Wallowa counties emerged from the relatively mild winter of 2011-12 in good condition overall according to spring Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife population surveys.

The surveys indicate that for the most part fawn and elk calf survival was good.

Following is a breakdown of what ODFW biologists found.

Elk

The best news on the Union County elk front concerns the Starkey Unit. Starkey has 26 calves per 100 cows, the highest total in the past 12 years, Erickson said. 

Calf ratios are also up in Union County’s two other units. Catherine Creek has 29 calves per 100 cows, up three from a year ago and East Mt. Emily 28 has calves per 100 cows, its highest mark since 2008.

Hunters should notice the improvement this fall when half of the calves counted recently will be yearling bulls.

“The opportunity to take yearling bulls should be noticeably improved,’’ Erickson said.

Bull rations are about the same in Starkey and Catherine Creek its and significantly in the East Mt. Emily unit. 

 The overall population in the Catherine Creek Unit is up. ODFW biologists are proposing that tags for bulls and cows in the Catherine Creek Unit will be boosted as a result. The deadline for applying for controlled hunt 2012 big game tags in Oregon is May 15.

In Wallowa County the overall elk population is up slightly to 18,000. Wallowa County has 20 calves per 100 cows, down four from last spring. Its bull ratio is 14 per 100 cows, the same as a year ago.

Deer

Mule deer numbers in Union County are down slightly but the composition of herds is good, according to ODFW biologist Leonard Erickson. The deer population is down slightly in the Starkey Unit and unchanged in the Catherine Creek Unit.

Over winter fawn survival was 77 percent in the Starkey Unit, 86 percent in the Catherine Creek Unit and 84 percent in the East Mount Emily Unit.

ODFW counts in Union County indicate that there are 33 fawns per 100 adults in the Starkey Unit, up four from a year ago; 31 fawns per 100 adults in the Catherine Creek Unit, up one from last spring and 31 fawns per 100 adults in the East Mt. Emily Unit. The East Mt. Emily Unit had 44 fawns per 100 adults year ago.

The number of bucks per 100 does is down in the East Mt. Emily and Catherine Creek units but up in the Starkey Unit. There are 17 bucks per 100 does in the Starkey Unit, up five from a year ago.

Hunters in Union County can expect to have an improved opportunity to take yearly bucks this fall and an average chance to take adult bucks based on spring population count, Erickson said.

Wallowa County's mule deer population, like Union County's is also down. Wallowa are also down, according to ODFW biologist Vic Coggins. Wallowa County has an estimated 22,000 mule deer, down about 1,000 from a year ago.

Fawn numbers for mule deer are down. Wallowa County has 26 fawns per 100 adults, five less than last spring and 30 white-tailed deer fawns per 100 adults, down one from a year ago.

The reason for the lower fawn numbers is that there were fewer fawns entering the winter than normal, Coggins said.