Campus turkeys pose threat to duck country

Sarah Case and her 9-year-old Sheltie, Coco, were crossing Agate Street in front of Hamilton Hall on their way to class in October last year when Case noticed they were being followed.

The things pursuing Case and Coco were turkeys.

“They crossed the street super slowly then they followed me into the crosswalk,” said Case. “I kept walking and then I walked a little faster, and then they walked a little faster, and then some nice random lady had to grab a stick to poke them away.”

Although they make for funny pictures, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the turkeys are becoming a problem by moving into city limits. ODFW biologist Christopher Yee said they risk damaging people’s properties, causing traffic accidents and, of course, chasing people and pets. Nonetheless, the city has not taken action like Yee said ODFW hoped they would.

Case said she hopes something will be done with the turkeys so she doesn’t have to be afraid of something like that happening again. She still remembers having to calm down after the turkeys left and made her late to class that morning.

“And then I hid behind a trash can for like five minutes,” said Case. “I was pretty much hyperventilating and laughing at the same time. I’ve been emotionally scarred since.”

She said her dog is about the same size as the turkeys, but Coco didn’t care much. This situation is something that Yee warned is a risk of having the turkeys in Eugene.

“It’s a pretty serious issue and there are people who have been dealing with it for years,” said Yee. “During the breeding season, the toms (males) can get quite aggressive and chase people, and they will sometimes get you with the spurs on their legs.”

He also said turkeys are often particularly attracted to chasing around pets.

The turkeys were introduced into Oregon in the 1990s as a game bird, according to Yee, amid some debate about whether the animals were native to the state or not.

Yee said the turkeys were initially placed in areas where they wouldn’t interfere with homes or businesses. Since then, because of population growth, people transporting them and people feeding them, the animals have found their way to Eugene. And he sees no reason for them to leave anytime soon since they are so easily fed.

One way to help get the turkeys out of the city is to reduce the instances of people feeding them. Yee said ODFW is working with the city of Eugene to create a no feeding ordinance as they have in other cities like Corvallis and Veneta.

Yee said these ordinances only prohibit people from feeding the animals if feeding them is causing damage to others’ properties.

He emphasized a difference between intentionally feeding the turkeys and unintentionally feeding them.

“People should definitely not feed them intentionally,” Yee said. “However, a lot of people like to feed deer and the same grains you would feed a deer, you can feed turkeys. Or you can also have people with bird feeders and if they don’t clean up underneath the bird feeder, the turkey will come in and do it for them. There’s also people who leave pet food or food outside.”

Another problem with animals brought to the area for hunting is that hunting is illegal inside city limits. Yee said the birds also risk causing traffic accidents and damaging landscaping and property.

UO facility services landscape supervisor Phil Carroll said they “don’t do anything” in terms of the groundskeeping crew, and there’s no specific management actions they take because of them.

“They are just out there on campus like any other two-legged creature, and we go about our business in our usual way and they go about their business,” said Carroll.

If students cross paths with turkeys on campus, Yee warned it’s important not to attempt to chase them off.

“When people chase turkeys out of their yard, technically they need what’s called a hazing permit from our department,” said Yee. “It is illegal to harass wildlife.”

Yee said in terms of traffic accidents, if drivers hit a turkey, it’s treated the same as a driver hitting a deer or a raccoon on the road. Unless intent can be proven, there is typically no ramifications for the driver.

While the Eugene Police Department said they don’t have any record of any incidents involving the turkeys, UO Police Department public information officer Kelly McIver said they were called on Wednesday to help move two turkeys from the parking garage outside of the HEDCO Education Building.

“The city needs to step up and take [the turkeys] seriously or it’s going to get worse,” said Yee.

The post Campus turkeys pose threat to duck country appeared first on Emerald Media.

Wildlife-Involved Collision – Interstate 5 South of Creswell

Creswell OR – Two drivers were not injured Friday night following a vehicle-wildlife collision on Interstate 5 three mile south of Creswell. Oregon State Police (OSP), Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) urge motorists to be extra alert for wildlife on or n ear our roads.

On October 3, 2014 at approximately 8:10 p.m., a 2004 Honda Accord driven by a 60-year old male was southbound in the left lane on Interstate 5 near milepost 179 when the driver saw a deer standing on the right fog line. As the driver began to slow, the deer ran across the highway were the Honda hit it head-on. A 2000 Chevrolet Tahoe driven by a 33-year old female was following the Honda and struck the rear of the car.

The drivers were not injured and both cars were towed from the scene because of damage sustained in the collision. The deer was killed.

According to ODOT, over the past 10 years more than a third of the total reported vehicle-wildlife crashes occurred September – November. During this season, OSP, ODOT and ODFW urge drivers to be aware of the possible dangers associated with animals on or near our highways. Extra vigilance is required. The following information may help reduce these incidents:

* The annual deer rut season typically lasts from late October to mid-to-late November, increasing deer activity in and around roadways.
* During the next few months there will be fewer daylight hours and visibility will be challenged by darkness and winter weather conditions.
* Be attentive at all times, but especially sunset to sunrise.
* When driving in areas that have special signs indicating the possible presence of animals/wildlife, please use extra caution because these signs are posted for a reason.
* Be extra careful in areas where there is a lot of vegetation next to the road or while going around curves. Wildlife near the road may not be visible.
* Remember that the presence of any type of animal/wildlife could also mean that others are nearby.
* When you see an animal/wildlife near or on the roadway, reduce your speed and try to stay in your lane. Many serious crashes are the result of drivers swerving to avoid wildlife or other obstacles and they crash into another vehicle or lose control of their own vehicle.
* The same advice applies for smaller wildlife like nutria or raccoons – try to stay in your lane and do not swerve for these animals. They are less dangerous to vehicles than big game animals; losing control of your vehicle is a larger concern.
* Always wear your safety belt, as even the slightest collision could result in serious injuries.

More information related to vehicle-wildlife collisions is available in a news release sent October 3 at: http://www.oregon.gov/osp/NEWSRL/Pages/news/10_03_2014_wildlife_crash_reminder.aspx

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Sea Creatures Wash Up On Waldport Beach

velella velella2Waldport, Ore. — An unusual site washed up on the shores of Waldport, Oregon this weekend.

Millions of Velella velella are scattered across the beaches there.

Despite their similarity to jellyfish, the Velella velella do not sting, but that doesn’t mean people should handle them.

“If you see them, I wouldn’t touch them,” said Cameron Rauenhorst with Oregon State Parks. “A lot of people have allergic reactions. Plus they are starting to rot. That’s why they are known as ‘stinky purples.’  It might take a while for you to wash the smell off,” said Rauenhorst.

According to Rauenhorst, the sea creatures follow the wind and live all over the world.

He said Velella velella typically wash up in the Waldport area once a year around this time.

What Happened to the Western Meadowlark?


What Happened to the Western Meadowlark?
by Kevin Baird, EDN

Western Meadowlark

In 1927 school children across the state of Oregon voted the Western Meadowlark to be the state bird. Children liked the meadowlark because of its striking appearance, its pretty song, and its common presence in meadows and prairies. Nowadays the state bird has nearly vanished in the valleys west of the cascades. Younger generations are wondering what the bird looks like and older generations are wondering what happened to it.

Mary James, a native of Eugene and outdoor enthusiast said,  “We used to have a lot of meadowlarks when I was growing up, but now we don’t see them hardly ever any more. It makes me very sad.”

In 2009 the Lincoln Star Journal reported that in the United States grassland bird populations have declined 40 percent over the last 40 years. Western Meadowlarks are grassland birds, and in areas like the Willamette Valley their population decline has been more dramatic.

Oregon’s state bird is characterized by its bright yellow belly and throat; it also bears a black “V” shape across its chest. It’s back is brown and is covered in black speckles. It is also revered as a beautiful song-bird.

Meadowlark habitat consists of wide-open prairie and grasslands with no trees. Matt Benotsch, a land steward at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) said, “Woodlands are not suitable habitats for meadowlarks. They don’t feel safe near the trees because of predators.” Matt explained that aside from trees, woody vegetation scares the meadowlarks too. “Blackberries would be a prime example. Blackberries are everywhere in the Willamette Valley. If you have a big blackberry patch, a meadowlark isn’t going to want to be anywhere near it.”

Prior to American settlement in the valleys in western Oregon, Native Americans used controlled burns to facilitate hunting and to keep the prairies open so they could plant and eat their crops. This kept trees and other woody vegetation from encroaching on prairies.  The prairies were the perfect habitat and Western Meadowlarks flourished.

Those native ecosystems have been nearly obliterated. 98 to 99.5 of all pre- settlement meadowlark habitats have been destroyed and the meadowlark population has gone down with their habitats.

Urban sprawl and agricultural development has covered all the land in the valleys. Trees and other woody vegetation like blackberries have covered up the remaining grasslands. Restoring the native prairie ecosystems to Western Oregon isn’t as easy as it sounds. Nearly every bit of land that could possibly be used is privately owned.

For the last few decades TNC has been purchasing land from private owners and restoring prairie ecosystems to western Oregon. When land purchases are not possible conservation easements have been made.  Willow Creek Park in Eugene is a successful example of how TNC has created a habitat for meadowlarks to live and breed in.

TNC’s most recent acquisition is a large parcel of land near Mount Pisgah at the confluence of the Middle and Coast Forks of the Willamette River. The land purchase cost millions of dollars, which was granted to TNC by the Bonneville Power Administration. A portion of the land will be restored to  a native prairie ecosystem, which will provide a small breeding ground for meadowlarks. The process will take 10 to 15 years. When the process is complete they plan on turning the property over to an unidentified public land agency.

A new bill proposed in the 2011 Oregon State Legislative session could possibly expedite the restoration and rejuvenation of the state bird.

The Wild Bird Conservation act, House Bill 3374, has been proposed in the 2011 legislative session. If the bill passes all wild-bird seed sold in Oregon retail stores will be taxed at 5 cents per pound. The money that the tax generates, which the Audobon Society (who is a large supporter of the bill) projects to be approximately 2 million dollars a year, will then be appropriated to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). The ODFW will then use the funds for habitat restoration, monitoring bird species, outreach programs, and other collaborative conservation efforts in both urban and non-urban landscapes.

Not all of the money generated by the Wild Bird Conservation Act will go towards meadowlark restoration, but meadowlarks are a high conservation priority for the ODFW. Therefore it can be assumed that moneys from this tax will go towards helping the meadowlark.

Opinions vary as to whether this tax will be effective. Carol Houk is a self-proclaimed bird lover who has a birdfeeder and enjoys feeding birds in her back yard. She has a different take on the tax. “Even though it’s painful and I don’t want to spend the money, it’s for a good cause. If it’s going to help with habitat restoration for birds, I’m all for it.”

She also thinks that the tax will fix a flaw that she sees in the conservation system, “Hunters pay a lot of fees for big game and waterfowl, which goes towards conservation. Songbirds don’t have anything that supports or pays for keeping the bird’s population stable.”

Long time bird watching fanatic, John Sullivan, is skeptical of the tax. “My concern with it is making sure the money goes to the right place.” John would much rather donate money to the Audobon Society or TNC.

Regardless of their opinions on taxes bird lovers can agree that efforts should be made to increase meadowlark populations.

“People should know that they’re there and that they’re in trouble.” Sullivan said. “They’re a gorgeous bird.”