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Wildlife Management

Wildlife enhances human enjoyment of the ranch.  The animals are fun to watch and they assure us we have partly escaped gray pavements and are surrounded by nature.  The animals largely take care of themselves and the ranch invests relatively little in wildlife management.  Nonetheless, not all animals are beneficial.  We want to encourage some animals (elk, most birds) and control some others (e.g. gophers, tree frogs, sage rats, mosquitoes).  This section addresses selected animals on the ranch, describes their impact, and presents actions the ranch now takes or could take for each one. 

For photos of wildlife taken on the ranch, see the Wildlife web page and the Wildlife Gallery.  For a discussion of fish in the Little Deschutes see Trout in the Riparian section of this Stewardship Plan.


Species have come and gone on the ranch over time.  Although quail are very common now on the ranch and throughout Central Oregon, there were no quail on the ranch when Claude and Grace Vandevert were growing up here in the 1930’s.  Quail have been widely (and successfully) transplanted by humans throughout Oregon.  The cessation of grazing and the expansion of willows in the ranch riparian areas have been favorable to quail. Perhaps these changes also explain why the rabbits seen on the ranch today were nowhere to be found in the 1930's and 40's.      

There are no bear on the ranch or anywhere near it today.  But it is likely there were bear here before permanent settlement began and William Vandevert, well-known bear hunter, arrived. 

Claude Vandevert reports, “There were no beaver until maybe the middle 30's when a very few began to show up.  Then occasionally we would see a beaver house but never dams; the river was too big for them to try that.  There were a lot of muskrats and mink and Dad did a lot of trapping for them to make an income.  But these too, began to disappear.  The muskrats fed on the fresh water mussels and finally ate them all and left.”  Any muskrat resurgence would first appear in the sloughs and backwaters but there are no signs of muskrat on the ranch at this time.  There are very few mink but a big dark male does live near the bridge.

Favored Animals

Elk - Elk make the ranch seem closer to the wilderness and they help keep the grass in the pasture and forests green and vigorous by grazing it.  Elk are a negative for our neighbor, Crosswater, because they tear up the greens on the golf course with their hooves.  A side benefit of our thinning the forest is providing more grass for elk.  The ranch will leave a few quarter acre patches of un-thinned forest where elk (and deer) like to bed down.

Ducks – The ranch has successfully encouraged wood ducks by building nine duck boxes for their nests.  Other ducks also use the boxes while some prefer to nest on the ground near the pond.  The ranch cleans out the boxes in mid-March and the ducks use them in March and April.

Bluebirds – The ranch and some homeowners have installed about a dozen bird boxes for nesting bluebirds.  Swallows also use them and some flickers use them after they have enlarged the entry hole.  Birds would probably make use of twenty or thirty more bluebird boxes if the ranch installed them. 

Problem Animals

Sage Rats (Belding’s Ground Squirrel) – Sage Rats bring loose dirt, dust, and fleas.  The holes they dig can cripple horses.  They multiply rapidly and can cover large areas of meadow and pasture.  They are worst in the meadow south of the road to the Homestead.  The ranch foreman cuts into their population by shooting some every year with a 22, particularly by the barn and also by the pond and the south gate.  Shooting them in the south meadow is limited by the proximity of multiple houses.  The CC&R’s prohibit owners from discharging firearms on the ranch and one owner kills the squirrels with a pellet gun.

Tree Frogs – The mating calls of this large frog population can keep owners awake all night, especially near the pond where the frogs lay their eggs and hibernate over the winter.  The best way to limit their numbers seems to be to drop the level of the pond when winter temperatures are particularly cold.  Without the insulating water, many of the hibernating frogs freeze.  This frog species is not endangered or threatened.

Gophers – Gophers kill tree seedlings and tear up lawns.  They create holes where horses can stumble.  The ranch makes effective use of strychnine bait where they become a particular problem.  It is impossible to get rid of them all because more come in to replace them.

Other Animals with Stewardship Issues

Badger – Badgers can be fierce if approached and they dig big holes that are a threat to horses.  On the positive side, badgers eat gophers and sage rats.  We’ve seen holes dug by badgers east of the river but never the badgers themselves, suggesting that the resident population is low or that badgers only visit the ranch from elsewhere.  The ranch has taken no steps to control badgers but could reduce their population, at least temporarily, by trapping them.  Controlling the sage rat population, as the ranch will continue to do, should help limit the presence of badgers as a consequence.

Beaver – Beaver are fine in the river and as long as they restrict their diet to the plentiful willows.  They sometimes chop down the aspen trees in owner landscaping.  One beaver took up residence in the pond a few years ago and couldn’t be trapped.  The ranch foreman finally shot it.

Black Bear - Neither bears, their tracks, or their scat have been seen on the ranch.  But there are bears in the Cascades and bears have been spotted in Sunriver and in La Pine.  Bear are unlikely to appear on the ranch unless owners leave their garbage out long enough for bears to find it.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will not relocate bears that are habituated to human environments.  If a bear did make a habit of visiting the area, the ranch would arrange with ODFW to eliminate the bear.  

Coyote – Coyote are exciting to see and they eat gophers and voles – both dead ones and live ones.  But they occasionally eat small pets and they could be a threat to untended infants.  The ranch has taken no direct action for or against coyotes.

Flickers – This woodpecker often pecks wood away from log houses to build its nest.  The best defense, which the ranch and some owners have undertaken, is to build bird houses customized for flickers (see photo at right) so they leave the human houses alone.

Mule Deer – The mule deer on the ranch are welcome at their current population level.  The owners enjoy seeing them, especially the fawns.  The deer browse the undesirable bitterbrush, especially if the ranch cuts it down and allows it to re-sprout.  Deer unfortunately limit the flowers and plants that can be planted in landscaping because they eat many of the desirable species.    

Mosquitoes - The ranch is within the Four Rivers Vector Control District and pays the district about $4,000 per year for a very effective mosquito abatement program.  As soon as flood waters recede in the spring, the district places mosquito dunks in standing water throughout the district.  Bacteria in the floating dunks kill mosquito larvae.  Once a year the district usually does aerial spraying.  (See photo below.) If anyone reports a mosquito problem the district is very prompt in dispatching a truck to fog the area.   Mosquito Abatement Helicopter

Otter – The river otter, which seem most prevalent at the very north end of the ranch, are fun to watch.  The negative is that they eat fish.  But the fish are faster and enough fish escape to keep the otter population limited.  Otters become a nuisance when they visit the pond and eat the stocked rainbow trout.  The ranch has acquired kill permits for otter but has never killed any. 

Porcupines (few) and Grey Squirrels (numerous) – These animals scrape the bark off pine trees, weakening the trees and sometimes killing them.  (See the photo at left of a lodgepole damaged but not killed by squirrels.)  The ranch takes no direct action because the damage is not severe and any animals removed would soon be replaced by others.  Thinning the forest cuts down on squirrel damage because squirrels prefer thick stands where they can hide better from raptors.

Ticks - Ticks are encountered only occasionally on the ranch - more often in brush than in grass.  Tick bites show up as white spots on horses and the ticks can be easily removed with a product called Brute.  On October 24, 1999, the Bend Bulletin reported, "Lyme disease is rare here. In fact, no cases of the disease were reported to the Deschutes County Health Department last year. The ticks that carry the disease are known to survive better in warmer, more humid climates. A recent  study showed that virtually none of the ticks here carry Lyme. The disease  is more common on the East Coast. In Oregon, it’s more likely to be found in the valley or at the coast."  Fuels reduction cuts the tick population further by eliminating habitat for both ticks and the voles that are likely to host them.

Voles – Also known as meadow voles or field mice, voles girdle tree seedlings and tear up lawns in the winter.  Trapping voles is the only way to control them and it is expensive.  Clearing bitterbrush reduces the population because voles favor bitterbrush for hiding from birds of prey.  A robust coyote population probably helps as well.   

Possible Future Problems

Cougar – Cougars are a threat to livestock, pets, and even humans.   No cougars have been seen on the ranch, though some people say they have seen tracks.  Cougar from the Cascades have come closer to civilization since 1994 when hunting them with dogs was banned.  The cats are now less afraid of man.  Cougar have been seen in La Pine and in Bend.  The ranch plans to ignore cougar passing through but will remove any that take up residence on the ranch or nearby.  The bobcats on the ranch are not a threat to humans or pets.

Nutria – This large semi-aquatic rodent is an invasive species from South America that is a pest in the Willamette Valley.  It has not reached the Deschutes River Valley.  Cold winters may prevent nutria from ever establishing themselves on the ranch.  The animals have been successfully eradicated in California and other areas.

White-tailed Deer - The closest white-tailed deer are on the middle fork of the John Day river.  There are also white-tailed deer on the in the Columbia and Umpqua valleys and in north-eastern Oregon.  The ranch riparian area is good habitat for them and the deer could quickly overpopulate the ranch and drive out the mule deer.

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