July’s Long Draw fire and the current Holloway fire have burned hundreds of thousands of acres, much of it in core sage-grouse habitat.
Greater sage-grouse are a candidate species for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. ODFW typically allows hunters to take up to 5 percent of the sage-grouse population, as such limited hunting does not impact sage-grouse populations. But habitat loss and fragmentation, which can result from wildfires, are one of the biggest threats to sage-grouse populations.
“ODFW manages sage-grouse very conservatively,” said Dave Budeau, ODFW upland bird coordinator. “We have decided not to offer hunting permits for the unit because we need to fully assess the impacts of these two large wildfires on sage-grouse and their habitat.”
Last year, ODFW offered 225 sage-grouse hunting permits in the Whitehorse Unit. During its Aug. 3 meeting in Salem, the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved 150 permits for the unit and closed a portion of it to sage-grouse hunting (east and south of Hwy 95). The reduction in tags and closure was due to the Long Draw fire, which burned 558,000 acres in July.
But the Holloway fire, which began in Nevada Aug. 5, has since burned north into Oregon’s Trout Creek Mountains and prompted ODFW to file an emergency rule and not offer any hunting permits in the Whitehorse Unit.
“The Trout Creek Mountains has some of the state’s best sage-grouse habitat, and this habitat is within the Holloway fire’s perimeter” explained Rod Klus, ODFW district wildlife biologist in Hines.
As of today, the Holloway fire is only 5 percent contained.
ODFW will be contacting any hunters that have applied for a sage-grouse hunting permit in the Whitehorse Unit to let them know about the opportunity to reapply for other units where permits are available.
The application period for sage-grouse hunting permits is open through Aug. 27. Hunters can apply online, at a license sales agent or ODFW office that sells licenses, or by using this online application.
Pronghorn antelope hunters in southeastern Oregon may also be affected by the Holloway and other fires, though ODFW is not planning any hunting closures. Hunters should check with BLM, U.S. Forest Service or the appropriate landowner before heading afield to find out about any closures and fire restrictions. Most pronghorn seasons open tomorrow, Saturday Aug. 11.
The southeast corner of Oregon and adjoining portions of Nevada and southwest Idaho contain some of the most intact, high-quality sage-grouse habitat in the species range. Hunters contribute to sage-grouse management by submitting wings of harvested birds to ODFW, allowing biologists to learn more about age, sex and distribution of the species.
For more information about sage-grouse in Oregon visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/sagegrouse/