County deer study completed

John Bowman

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday heard a presentation from Leslie Taylor about the results of a project that assessed vegetation management in the Goosenest Ranger District of the Klamath National Forest.

In July of 2010, the California Deer Association awarded Siskiyou County a $30,000 grant to study the limiting factors for deer populations in the county. In February, the county used some of that money to hire two temporary employees to compile and assess data from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) regarding vegetation management on many plots in the Goosenest District.

The data included many old photographs and information dating back as far as the 1950s. In addition, historic vegetative plot assessments were acquired from USFS. Taylor and her partner – who recently left the project for a job with USFS – collected new current data on bitterbrush density on selected plots.

Other studies have shown bitterbrush to be an essential part of the fall and winter diet of mule deer. This was a driving factor in the county’s desire to better understand the effects of USFS vegetation management on the abundance of the plant.

Plots were selected for study based on a list of criteria including continuity of data available as well as methods of vegetation management employed.

Untreated control plots were compared with plots on which USFS?used prescribed burns as well as plots treated with mechanical vegetation removal.

One key finding, according to Taylor, was that vegetation on plots treated with low intensity prescribed burns recovered better than on plots where burns reached higher intensities.

Taylor said data also showed that bitterbrush recovered better on plots where it had been cut at a level of two feet from the ground versus plots where it had been cut to two inches from the ground.

Siskiyou County Natural Resource Policy Specialist Ric Costales said much of the historic data for these plots was on the verge of being lost forever.

He said the grant funding for this project was essential to the effort to digitize the USFS data so that it could be preserved for future assessment.

Costales said this project will ultimately use about $10,000 of the original grant funding.

He said, as Taylor’s supervisor, he was very pleased with how much work she and her partner had accomplished in two months. In addition, Costales said, this study shows that the Klamath National Forest is doing some beneficial vegetation management projects.

District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff said he was impressed with the project, adding that he was very glad the county was able to preserve such valuable data.

District 1 Supervisor Jim Cook said he wished other government agencies and natural resource management entities were doing more productive projects like this.