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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)

/ US Fish
US Fish

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

Copyright 2013 Northwest News Network

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.
Tom Banse
Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.