Drought Campaign Urges Caution

When in drought, fish and wildlife are stressed out. Ongoing drought conditions can take a toll on Oregon’s fish and wildlife.

While some of Oregon benefitted from a wet spring and early summer, parts of the state still remains in significant drought (including southeast Oregon and parts of southwest, central and northeast Oregon). The extreme temperatures and heat this week will exacerbate drought conditions.

During a drought, fish like Oregon’s iconic salmon and steelhead face even more challenges, as low water can strand them and makes migrating to the ocean even more difficult for juvenile fish. Meanwhile, adult fish returning to their home rivers may struggle to survive in warm water temperatures and can fail to complete their life cycle and spawn the next generation of fish.

With food and water scarcer, birds and mammals can become weaker and their young less likely to survive. Female mule deer may not get enough forage to feed their young, so fewer fawns survive. 

Reptiles and amphibians also have limited habitat in ultra-dry conditions with species like the foothill yellow-legged frogs impacted. Drought will increase frog densities in remaining pools leading to more competition, poorer growth rates, greater risks for disease transmission and lower survival of tadpoles.

No one can control the weather, but everyone spending time outdoors can take steps to reduce the unintended impacts of recreation on fish, wildlife, and their habitats during drought. Share this with your friends!

When in drought, tread carefully about.

Habitat can be negatively impacted by careless use off trail. Bikers and hikers are encouraged to stay on trail and limit leaving trails to only when necessary. ATV/UTV users should avoid driving on or through streambeds (wet or dry) as it permanently damages the habitat. Remember to keep your dogs on leash and on trail to limit disturbance to wildlife sheltering nearby.

When in drought, help fish out.

Summer is a peak time for outdoor recreation in Oregon and spending time on and around water is a common pastime. Be considerate when swimming, boating, paddling, and fishing as human presence is more stressful for fish during drought. Consider fishing in the mornings and evenings when the weather is cooler. Try to reel in and release fish quickly to avoid exhausting them before letting them go. Try swimming in larger water bodies where fish and other critters aren’t congregating for refuge. More fishing tips.  

When in drought, help wildlife out.

Remember that you are sharing the outdoors with the wildlife that call it home and they are more sensitive to visitors in their ‘home’ when in drought conditions. Try to camp away from waterholes, rivers and streams as your presence may scare wildlife away from a needed drinking source. Try limiting your noise levels to avoid scaring wildlife away from important habitat they need during drought.

Note that “helping” doesn’t mean feeding wildlife, which can cause more problems by congregating wildlife and getting them used to unnatural food sources and habitat.

When in drought, reroute.

Summer in Oregon is a great time of year to spend outside but consider recreating in alternative places where recreation has less of an impact on fish, wildlife, and habitat during drought. Try fishing for warmwater species that are less sensitive to the heat of summer or for trout in the high mountain lakes where water temperatures remain cooler. Or try swimming in larger, deeper lakes or reservoirs instead of rivers and creeks where fish and wildlife struggle to find a place to recover from the heat and drought. Look for camping away from watering holes or low water so as not to scare fish and wildlife away from critical resources.

When in drought, use binoculars to scout.

Binoculars are a great way to enjoy wildlife viewing from afar, and to scout for upcoming hunting seasons as it limits the amount of disturbance to the habitat during drought. Try to limit your disturbance of animals during summer when you are scouting or watching wildlife. Use optics whenever you can to avoid tromping thru habitat. Always give animals access to water, especially at night.

When in drought, campfires out.

Reduce the likelihood of wildfire by completely extinguishing your campfire (embers and ashes too). Be prepared with a fire extinguisher should a fire accidentally occur from your campfire (required during fire season for all ATVs and for vehicles when not travelling on county or state roads).

ODFW has launched an awareness campaign (starring a singing trout) to explain the impacts of drought on fish and wildlife and their habitats and suggest ways for Oregonians and visitors to reduce their unintended impacts when recreating outdoors. See campaign ads here.

The campaign is funded by a grant from the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund.

Visit DroughtInfo.org to learn more about drought’s impacts on Oregon’s fish, wildlife, and habitat.

Source: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

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