Caution: Saving a species may require heavy lifting – literally picking up wild animals and moving them long distances.
Big animals. Small animals. Skittish, furtive or aggressive animals. Regardless, the same biological rules apply: To better the odds of survival, rare species need more than one population base and the widest gene pool possible.
This spring, Northwesterners got a glimpse of the challenges involved when our staff netted, sedated and trucked 49 endangered Columbian white-tailed deer from Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 60 miles southeast in Washington state.
A Columbian white-tailed deer in transit at Julia Butler Hansen Refuge in Washington. (Photo: USFWS)
The deer were moved to protect them from the threat posed by an eroding dike between the Columbia River and Hansen Refuge: If the dike failed, flooding might otherwise wipe out the species. A few deer were even flown a short distance by helicopter, suspended by slings.