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Feds To Relocate Rare Deer Threatened By Failing Dike

A federal agency plans a major effort to preemptively rescue about 65 deer upriver from Astoria. The animals live on a floodplain beside the lower Columbia River.

These aren’t just any deer. They’re an endangered species: the Columbian white-tailed deer. One of this animal’s strongholds is a national wildlife refuge near Cathlamet, Washington. But now the Columbia River is on the verge of bursting through a failing dike at the edge of the refuge.

“We don’t know when it’s going to breach,” says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Doug Zimmer. “It could be tonight. It could be next month. It could be next year. But it will breach. When it breaches, the refuge will fill, much like a bathtub.”

Zimmer says no agency has been able to find money to fix the eroding dike. So starting later this month, the Fish and Wildlife Service plans to round up and move up to 65 of the rare deer. Most will be permanently relocated about 55 miles upriver to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. A few deer could also be dropped off on an uninhabited island near Kelso.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will hold two public workshops next week to share information and answer questions about the deer relocation. The sessions are scheduled for January 22 at the Ridgefield Community Center and January 23 at the Sauvie Island Academy. The information sessions at both locations will be from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

On the Web:

Julia Butler Hansen Refuge (US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Species profile: Columbian White-Tailed deer (US Fish & Wildlife Service)

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