[Federal Register: July 24, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 142)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 43647-43659]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 43647]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF43

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule To 
Remove the Douglas County Distinct Population Segment of Columbian 
White-Tailed Deer From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: In this action, we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
establish two distinct population segments (DPS) of the Columbian 
white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus leucurus): the Douglas County 
DPS and the Columbia River DPS; and remove the Douglas County DPS from 
the List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife. We have also determined 
that the Douglas County, Oregon, DPS is no longer an endangered or 
threatened species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (Act) (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), based on the best available data indicating that 
the Douglas County DPS has recovered. This DPS has increased from about 
2,500 animals, in 1983, to over 6,000 today. The range of the 
population has also increased. This robust population growth, coupled 
with habitat acquired and protected for the population, has brought the 
Douglas County DPS to the point where a change in status is 
appropriate. This recovery has primarily been the result of habitat 
acquisition and management for the deer, hunting restrictions, and the 
application of local ordinances designed to protect the Douglas County 
    The delisting of the Douglas County DPS will not change the 
endangered status of the Columbia River DPS. It remains fully protected 
by the Act.

DATES: This rule is effective July 24, 2003.

ADDRESSES: The administrative file for this rule is available for 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the Oregon 
Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2600 SE. 98th 
Ave., Suite 100, Portland, Oregon 97266.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cat Brown, Wildlife Biologist at the 
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section) (telephone 503/
231-6179; facsimile 503/231-6195).



    The Columbian white-tailed deer is the westernmost representative 
of 30 subspecies of white-tailed deer in North and Central America 
(Halls 1978; Baker 1984). It resembles other white-tailed deer 
subspecies, ranging in size from 39 to 45 kilograms (kg) (85 to 100 
pounds (lb)) for females and 52 to 68 kg (115 to 150 lb) for males 
(Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) 1995). Generally a red-
brown color in summer, and gray in winter, the subspecies has distinct 
white rings around the eyes and a white ring just behind the nose (ODFW 
1995). Its tail is relatively long, brown on top with a white fringe, 
and white below (Verts and Carraway 1998). The subspecies was formerly 
distributed throughout the bottomlands and prairie woodlands of the 
lower Columbia, Willamette, and Umpqua River basins in Oregon and 
southern Washington (Bailey 1936; Verts and Carraway 1998). Early 
accounts suggested this deer was locally common, particularly in 
riparian areas along major rivers (Gavin 1978). The decline in 
Columbian white-tailed deer numbers was rapid with the arrival and 
settlement of pioneers in the fertile river valleys (Gavin 1978). 
Conversion of brushy riparian land to agriculture, urbanization, 
uncontrolled sport and commercial hunting, and perhaps other factors 
apparently caused the extirpation of this deer over most of its range 
by the early 1900s (Gavin 1978). By 1940, a population of 500 to 700 
animals along the lower Columbia River in Oregon and Washington, and a 
disjunct population of 200 to 300 in Douglas County, Oregon, survived 
(Crews 1939; Gavin 1984; Verts and Carraway 1998). These two remnant 
populations remain geographically separated by about 320 kilometers 
(km) (200 miles (mi)), much of which is unsuitable or discontinuous 
    Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County are most often 
associated with riparian habitats, but studies have shown that the deer 
uses a variety of lower elevation habitat types. Radio-tagged deer in a 
recent study selected riparian habitats more frequently than any other 
habitat type, but were also found using all the other habitat types in 
the study area (i.e., grassland, grass shrub, oak savannah, oak-
hardwood woodland, oak-hardwood savannah shrub, oak-hardwood conifer, 
conifer, and urban/suburban yards) (Ricca 1999). This study found that 
the areas of concentrated use within a deer's home range were generally 
located within 200 meters (m) (650 feet (ft)) of streams (Ricca 1999), 
which confirms earlier work (Smith 1981) suggesting that habitat type 
is less important than distance to a stream. Open areas (grasslands and 
oak savanna) are used for feeding between dusk and dawn (Ricca 1999). 
The diet of Columbian white-tailed deer consists of forbs (broad-leaved 
herbaceous plants), shrubs, grasses, and a variety of other foods such 
as lichens, mosses, ferns, seeds, and nuts (Lowell Whitney, Oregon 
State University, pers. comm. 2001).
    Population estimates for the Douglas County DPS have demonstrated a 
fairly steady upward trend since management for the population began 
(see Table 1).

   Table 1.--Revised Annual Trend Counts (Based on Spring Censuses) and Population Estimates (Based on Linear
   Regression) With Confidence Intervals (Lower and Upper Population Estimates) for the Douglas County DPS of
                   Columbian White-Tailed Deer, 1975-2002 (Lindsay Ball, ODFW, in litt. 2002).
                                                                                       95% confidence intervals
                                                         Annual trend                ---------------------------
                          Year                           count  (deer/   Population       Lower         Upper
                                                             mile)        estimate     population    population
                                                                                        estimate      estimate
1975...................................................           1.7        1158              333          1984
1976...................................................           1.9        1340              468          2212
1977...................................................          1.95        1522              603          2441
1978...................................................             2        1704              738          2670
1979...................................................           2.3        1886              873          2899
1980...................................................           2.3        2068             1008          3128
1981...................................................           2.2        2250             1143          3357
1982...................................................           2.1        2432             1278          3585

[[Page 43648]]

1983...................................................           2.5        2614             1413          3814
1984...................................................           2.7        2796             1548          4043
1985...................................................           2.6        2978             1683          4272
1986...................................................           2.2        3160             1818          4501
1987...................................................           4.1        3342             1953          4730
1988...................................................           5.6        3523             2088          4958
1989...................................................             5        3705             2223          5187
1990...................................................           6.6        3887             2358          5416
1991...................................................           7.7        4069             2493          5645
1992...................................................           5.6        4251             2628          5874
1993...................................................           6.6        4433             2763          6103
1994...................................................           5.3        4615             2898          6331
1995...................................................           4.3        4797             3033          6560
1996...................................................           4.3        4979             3168          6789
1997...................................................           5.5        5161             3303          7018
1998...................................................           4.6        5343             3438          7247
1999...................................................           7.7        5525             3573          7476
2000...................................................           5.4        5707             3708          7705
2001...................................................           6.9        5888             3843          7933
2002...................................................           8.6        6070             3978          8162

    In the 1930s, the Columbian white-tailed deer population in Douglas 
County was estimated at 200 to 300 individuals within a range of about 
79 square kilometers (km\2\) (31 square miles (mi\2\)) (Crews 1939). By 
1983, the population had increased to about 2,500 deer (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service) 1983). The population has continued to grow 
and is currently estimated at over 6,000 deer (Lindsay Ball, ODFW, in 
litt. 2002). Along with this increase in numbers, the range also has 
expanded to the north and west, and the subspecies now occupies an area 
of approximately 800 km\2\ (309 mi\2\) (ODFW 1995). In 2002, the ODFW 
estimated that there were 8.6 deer per mile along its standard census 
routes, with a sex ratio of 24 adult bucks to 100 adult does, and 34 
fawns to 100 does (Lindsay Ball, ODFW, in litt. 2002). A recent 3-year 
study of the population found relatively low annual survival rates for 
adult deer (74 percent over 3 years), although the results were within 
the range of white-tailed deer survival rates in other parts of the 
country (Ricca et al. 2002). Fawn survival rates in this study were on 
the lower extreme of rates reported for other white-tailed deer 
populations (Ricca et al. 2002); the authors of the study suggest that 
poor fawn survival may be linked to high deer density in Douglas 
County. Annual population surveys indicate that deer density has 
doubled in the last 20 years, and the population may be at or near 
carrying capacity in portions of its range within Douglas County (Ricca 
    The State of Oregon has had a long history of research and active 
management of the Douglas County DPS of Columbian white-tailed deer. In 
1927, the Oregon State Legislature established a White-tailed Deer 
Refuge in Douglas County. Early studies estimated a population of 200 
to 300 Columbian white-tailed deer on the refuge, and an approximately 
equal number of Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus 
columbiana) (Crews 1939). The State of Oregon (ODFW 1995) subsequently 
considered white-tailed deer in Douglas County to be black-tailed deer 
or a hybrid between the black-tailed deer and the Columbian white-
tailed deer; the refuge was dissolved in 1952, and regulated hunting 
resumed (Gavin 1984). In 1978, Oregon recognized the white-tailed deer 
population in Douglas County as the Columbian white-tailed deer, and 
prohibited hunting of white-tailed deer in that County (Service 1983).
    Since 1978, the ODFW has conducted spring and fall surveys to 
estimate population size, recruitment, and sex ratios (ODFW, in litt. 
2001). Standard routes for spotlight surveys have been established 
along 76.4 km (47.5 mi) of road within the known range of the 
population (ODFW, in litt. 2001). The fall deer census counts both 
Columbian white-tailed deer and Columbian black-tailed deer throughout 
Douglas County, from November 15 through December 15 in most years, on 
nights with suitable survey conditions. All deer observed are 
classified by species, sex, and age (i.e., fawns, does, or bucks by 
antler class). This allows an estimate of fawn production going into 
winter (fawns per 100 adults), and in the case of black-tailed deer, 
the post hunting season buck survival (bucks per 100 does) (Steve 
Denney, ODFW, in litt. 2001).
    The spring census is similar to the fall count. On warm, wet nights 
in March, the ODFW conducts a spotlight count along the standard road 
routes, recording both white-tailed and black-tailed deer. All deer 
observed are recorded and classified as either adults or fawns; this 
provides an estimate of overwinter fawn survival (fawns per 100 does) 
and population trend (expressed as deer per mile) (S. Denney, ODFW, in 
litt. 2001).
    The State also implements an active research program, in 
coordination with us and the Oregon State University, to investigate 
deer habitat use and movement of radio-tagged individuals (Ricca 1999; 
ODFW 1995; ODFW, in litt. 2001). Since 1998, for example, the ODFW has 
been transplanting radio-tagged Columbian white-tailed deer from areas 
of high deer densities to Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park in northwestern 
Douglas County. The goals of the project have been to boost numbers of 
deer in the park, accelerate

[[Page 43649]]

range expansion to the north, to refine capture and transplanting 
techniques, and to move deer from areas where damage has been a concern 
(S. Denney, ODFW, in litt. 2001).
    The Columbian white-tailed deer was listed as endangered by the 
State with the passage of the Oregon Endangered Species Act in 1987 
(ODFW 1995). In 1995, the ODFW reviewed the status of the Columbian 
white-tailed deer in Oregon (both Douglas County and Columbia River 
populations) and concluded that the subspecies had recovered (ODFW 
1995). At the November 1995 meeting of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife 
Commission, the Commissioners voted unanimously to remove the Columbian 
white-tailed deer from the State of Oregon List of Threatened and 
Endangered Species; the subspecies was placed on the State's Sensitive 
Species List for continued monitoring (Oregon Fish and Wildlife 
Commission 1995). Oregon continues to prohibit hunting of white-tailed 
deer in all western Oregon big-game management units (ODFW 2001).

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment

    The Douglas County and Columbia River populations of the Columbian 
white-tailed deer meet the requirements for consideration as distinct 
population segments as described in our Policy Regarding the 
Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments, published in 
the Federal Register on February 7, 1996 (61 FR 4722). For a population 
to be considered as a distinct vertebrate population segment, two 
elements are considered: (1) The discreteness of the population segment 
in relation to the remainder of the species to which it belongs; and 
(2) the significance of the population segment to the species to which 
it belongs.
    A population may be considered discrete if it is: (1) Separated 
from other populations of the same taxon by physical, physiological, 
ecological, or behavioral factors; or (2) limited by international 
governmental boundaries where there are differences in control of 
exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory 
mechanisms. The Douglas County and Columbia River populations of 
Columbian white-tailed deer are discrete because they are 
geographically isolated from each other. Historically, this subspecies 
ranged from the south end of Puget Sound in Washington south to the 
Umpqua River drainage in Oregon (Bailey 1936). At the present time, the 
subspecies is found in two locations (along the Columbia River in 
Washington and Oregon, and in Douglas County, Oregon), which are 
separated by over 320 km (200 mi), much of which is discontinuous or 
unsuitable habitat. Columbian white-tailed deer are not migratory and 
appear to restrict their movements to relatively small home ranges 
(ODFW 1995). Laboratory research has also demonstrated that there may 
be a relatively large genetic difference between the Douglas County and 
Columbia River populations of Columbian white-tailed deer (Gavin and 
May 1988), which indicates a lack of gene flow between the two 
populations. As a result, the wide geographic gap in suitable habitat 
between the Columbia River and Douglas County populations demonstrates 
that this subspecies has two discrete population segments.
    The following issues are considered when determining significance: 
(1) Persistence of the discrete population segment in an unusual or 
unique setting for the taxon; (2) evidence that loss of the segment 
would result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon; (3) 
evidence that the discrete population segment represents the only 
surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more abundant 
elsewhere as an introduced population outside its historic range; or 
(4) evidence that the population segment differs from other populations 
of the species in its genetic characteristics.
    The Douglas County and Columbia River populations are considered 
significant under our policy based on two factors. First, the loss of 
either of the Douglas County or Columbia River population would result 
in a significant gap in the range of the subspecies. The loss of either 
population would substantially constrict the current range of the 
subspecies. Second, each population has genetic characteristics that 
are not found in the other population (Gavin and May 1988). Because the 
Douglas County and Columbia River populations of the Columbian white-
tailed deer are discrete and significant, they warrant recognition as 
Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments under the Act. The following 
map illustrates the location of these two DPSs.

[[Page 43650]]



Review of the Columbian White-tailed Deer Recovery Plan

    In accordance with the Act, we appointed a team of experts (the 
Columbian White-tailed Deer Recovery Team (Recovery Team)) to develop a 
recovery plan for the Columbian white-tailed deer. We approved the 
original Columbian White-tailed Deer Recovery Plan (Recovery Plan) in 
1977, and the Recovery Team revised the Recovery Plan in 1983 to 
include the newly recognized Douglas County population (Service 1983).
    Because of the distance between the Columbia River and Douglas 
County populations and differences in habitats and threats, the 
Recovery Plan addresses the recovery of each population separately. The 
Recovery Plan identified the following objectives for the Douglas 
County population: (1) To downlist the population to threatened, the 
Recovery Plan recommended the maintenance of 1,000 Columbian white-
tailed deer in a viable status on lands within the

[[Page 43651]]

Umpqua Basin of Douglas County, while keeping the relative proportions 
of deer habitat within the known range of the subspecies from further 
deterioration; and (2) to delist the population, it recommended the 
maintenance of a minimum population of 500 animals from the larger 
population, to be distributed on 2,226 hectares (ha) (5,500 acres (ac)) 
of suitable, secure habitat within the Umpqua Basin of Douglas County 
on lands owned, controlled, protected, or otherwise dedicated to the 
conservation of the species (Service 1983).
    The Recovery Plan defined secure habitat as those areas that are 
protected from adverse human activities (e.g., heavy, unregulated 
grazing by domestic animals, clearing of woody plants) in the 
foreseeable future, and that are relatively safe from natural phenomena 
that would destroy their value to the subspecies (Service 1983). The 
Recovery Plan did not define secure habitat to include only publicly 
owned lands; rather, it provided further guidance on secure habitat by 
stating that local entities, including planning commissions, county 
parks departments, and farm bureaus, could secure habitat through 
zoning ordinances, land-use planning, parks and greenbelts, agreements, 
memoranda of understanding, and other mechanisms available to local 
jurisdictions (Service 1983). The Recovery Plan also recommended that 
private conservation organizations be encouraged to secure habitat for 
Columbian white-tailed deer through easements, leases, acquisitions, 
donations, or trusts (Service 1983).
    The Recovery Plan identified a series of tasks that the Recovery 
Team recommended to meet the downlisting and delisting objectives for 
the Douglas County population of Columbian white-tailed deer (Service 
1983). These tasks fall into five main categories: (1) Tracking 
population status; (2) Ensuring viability of the population through 
enforcement of existing laws and regulations; (3) Securing and 
protecting habitat to allow the population to increase; (4) Studying 
the ecology of the population and assessing the threat of hybridization 
with Columbian black-tailed deer; and (5) Encouraging public support 
for Columbian white-tailed deer restoration. Nearly all of the tasks 
listed in the Recovery Plan (Service 1983) have been accomplished. We 
provide a summary of recovery tasks, along with the status of their 
implementation, below.
    1. Tracking population status. Tasks in this first category have 
been fully implemented. The ODFW, with our funding, has surveyed the 
population yearly since 1978. Data collected include spring and fall 
trend counts, estimates of overall population size, recruitment, and 
sex ratios. Surveys indicate that the population has grown from about 
2,500 animals in 1982 to about 6,000 in 2002 (Service 1983; Lindsay 
Ball, ODFW, in litt. 2002). The Recovery Plan included a model to 
estimate the minimum population size necessary to avoid extinction; 
using this model, the Recovery Team concluded that a population of 500 
deer in Douglas County could be considered safe from the potentially 
deleterious effects of inbreeding (Service 1983). The most recent 
estimate of the overall population of the Douglas County DPS is over 
6,000 deer (ODFW, in litt. 2001).
    2. Ensuring viability of the population through enforcement of 
existing laws and regulations. Tasks concerning enforcement of existing 
laws to protect the Columbian white-tailed deer have been fully 
implemented. It is currently illegal to take Columbian white-tailed 
deer under State law (ODFW 2001), and as proscribed in section 9 of the 
Act. Our biologists have coordinated with our agency's Law Enforcement 
Special Agents and our National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory 
in Ashland, Oregon, to refer illegal take cases to the Oregon State 
Police, which has successfully prosecuted a number of Columbian white-
tailed deer poaching cases (Sgt. Joe Myhre, Oregon State Police, pers. 
comm. 2001). See additional discussion under Factor D, below, for more 
detail. We have also engaged in section 7 consultations with Federal 
agencies for those actions which were determined to have the potential 
to affect Columbian white-tailed deer.
    3. Securing and protecting habitat to allow the population to 
increase. Since 1978, over 2,830 ha (7,000 ac) have come into public 
ownership and are being managed in a manner that is compatible with the 
needs of Columbian white-tailed deer (see full description of these 
parcels in Factor A, below). This acreage includes the North Bank 
Habitat Management Area (NBHMA), managed by the Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM), and Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park. Smaller parcels 
owned by Douglas County and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) also provide 
secure refugia for deer. In addition, Douglas County has used its 
authorities to conserve the Columbian white-tailed deer. The Douglas 
County Comprehensive Plan (Douglas County Planning Department (DCPD) 
2000a), county zoning ordinances (DCPD 2000b), and the Douglas County 
Deer Habitat Protection Program (DCPD 1995), also have been essential 
in protecting open space and rural agricultural landscapes used by the 
    The Recovery Plan recommended that we and the ODFW develop a long-
term management plan for the Douglas County population of Columbian 
white-tailed deer (Service 1983). Although a single, population wide 
plan has not been prepared, this task has been accomplished, in part, 
through site-specific management plans for the NBHMA (BLM 2001), 
Douglas County's Habitat Protection Program for the Columbian white-
tailed deer (DCPD 1995), and Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park (Douglas 
County Parks Department 2001a).
    4. Studying the ecology of the population and assessing the threat 
of hybridization with Columbian black-tailed deer. Several tasks in the 
Recovery Plan recommended research on the ecology of the population. A 
substantial amount of research has been conducted by the ODFW and the 
Oregon State University (Smith 1981; ODFW 1995; Ricca 1999; Whitney 
2001). The BLM used information from these studies to develop the NBHMA 
management plan, the largest property managed for the deer. Laboratory 
studies and field observations have been used to gauge the extent of 
hybridization between Columbian white-tailed deer and Columbian black-
tailed deer in Douglas County (Gavin and May 1988; Kistner and Denney 
1991; ODFW 1995); none of these studies has indicated that 
hybridization is a threat to the population.
    5. Encouraging public support for Columbian white-tailed deer 
restoration. The final set of tasks in the Recovery Plan deals with 
providing the public with information about the Columbian white-tailed 
deer restoration program. This task continues to be implemented by our 
biologists and the ODFW. The ODFW has produced informational materials 
on the deer population in Douglas County for the public and landowners. 
Our staff and the ODFW also provide information and recommendations to 
private landowners who have Columbian white-tailed deer on their 
    Recovery plans are intended to guide and measure recovery. The Act 
provides for delisting whenever the best available information 
indicates that a species, subspecies, or distinct population segment is 
no longer endangered or threatened. The Douglas County DPS population 
is robust and expanding, and substantial habitat has been protected by 
Federal acquisition and Douglas County's zoning and open space 
regulations. The recovery plan calls for

[[Page 43652]]

500 deer on 5,500 acres of secure habitat. There are currently over 
6,000 deer and over 7,000 acres of secure public lands managed to 
benefit the deer, plus zoning and other regulations and plans 
protecting additional habitat. It is not feasible, absent considerable 
expense, to demonstrate that 500 specific deer live entirely within 
secure lands managed for their benefit, as most deer move between 
public and private lands. However, the overall population increase and 
amount of secure habitat, as discussed previously, indicate that these 
recovery goals have been met. Accordingly, as discussed below in the 
listing factor analysis, we believe that the improved status of the 
Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County justifies its removal 
from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. We have reached 
this conclusion with the concurrence of the Recovery Team (Recovery 
Team, in litt. 2001).

Previous Federal Action

    On March 11, 1967, the Columbian white-tailed deer was listed in 
the Federal Register as an endangered species under the Endangered 
Species Preservation Act of 1966 (32 FR 4001). At that time, the 
subspecies was believed to occur only along the Columbia River, whereas 
the population in Douglas County was believed to be hybridized with the 
Columbian black-tailed deer (ODFW 1995). On March 8, 1969, we again 
published in the Federal Register (34 FR 5034) a list of fish and 
wildlife species threatened with extinction under the Endangered 
Species Conservation Act of 1969. This list again included the 
Columbian white-tailed deer. On August 25, 1970, we published a 
proposed list of endangered species, which included the Columbian 
white-tailed deer, in the Federal Register (35 FR 13519) as part of new 
regulations implementing the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 
1969. This rule became final on October 13, 1970 (35 FR 16047). Species 
listed as endangered on the above-mentioned lists were automatically 
included in the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife when the 
Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973. In 1978, the State of 
Oregon determined that white-tailed deer in the Roseburg area belonged 
to the Columbian subspecies (ODFW 1995). This determination resulted in 
that population being considered as endangered, together with the 
Columbia River population.
    On May 11, 1999, we published a proposed rule to remove the Douglas 
County DPS of the Columbian white-tailed deer from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; in the same notice, we also 
proposed to establish two distinct vertebrate population segments of 
the subspecies (the Douglas County and Columbia River populations) (64 
FR 25263). We accepted public comments until July 12, 1999. We reopened 
the public comment period on November 3, 1999, to allow peer review of 
the proposed rule (64 FR 59729) until November 18, 1999. We opened the 
public comment period again from December 29, 1999, through January 13, 
2000, in order to provide three peer reviewers an opportunity to review 
previous public comments, and to accept any new public comments on the 
proposed rule (64 FR 72992).
    In response to significant new information, on June 21, 2002, we 
published a supplemental proposed rule to establish the Douglas County 
DPS and the Columbia River DPS, and to remove the Douglas County DPS 
from the Federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (67 FR 
42217). We accepted public comments until August 20, 2002. During the 
public comment period we also solicited and received independent peer 
review of the supplemental proposed rule. We held a public hearing on 
the supplemental proposal to delist the Douglas County DPS on July 30, 
2002, in Roseburg, Oregon.

Summary of Comments on the Supplemental Proposed Rule

    We summarized and responded to comments on the 1999 proposed rule 
and subsequent comment period reopenings in the supplemental proposed 
rule published in June 2002. We will not repeat those comments and our 
responses here. In the June 21, 2002, supplemental proposed rule and 
associated notifications, we requested all interested parties to submit 
factual reports or information that might contribute to the development 
of a final rule. We contacted appropriate Federal and State agencies, 
county governments, scientific organizations, and other interested 
parties and asked them to comment. We also requested peer review from 
three independent scientists. We published newspaper notices in the 
Roseburg, Oregon, News-Review, and in The Oregonian, of Portland, 
Oregon, on June 21, 2002, which invited general public comment. We 
received 16 written comments, including those of 1 Federal agency, the 
State of Oregon, 3 county and municipal governments, 3 peer reviewers, 
and 8 individuals or groups; at the public hearing, we received 7 oral 
comments. Of the comments received, 22 supported and 1 opposed the 
proposed action.
    Comments received during the comment period are addressed in the 
following summary. Comments of a similar nature are grouped into three 
general issues.
    Issue 1: We received seven comments concerning the post-delisting 
monitoring plan. Commenters recommended continuation of the ODFW's 
population trend surveys, and also suggested that the monitoring plan 
include tracking of predation and disease occurrence in the Douglas 
County DPS, as well as an assessment of habitat quality on managed 
parcels. Commenters also recommended that the post-delisting monitoring 
period extend beyond the minimum requirement of 5 years, saying that 10 
years may be more appropriate.
    Our Response: Section 4(g) of the Act requires us to implement a 
system, in cooperation with the State, to monitor the status of 
delisted recovered species for a minimum of 5 years. We are working 
closely with the State to develop and implement an effective post-
delisting monitoring plan for the Douglas County DPS. The monitoring 
program will include spring and fall census counts, analysis of key 
population parameters, tracking of disease levels, and an assessment of 
habitat protection efforts. The duration of the post-delisting 
monitoring plan has not yet been determined, but will not be less than 
5 years post delisting, as required by the Act. See the Monitoring 
section of this final rule, below, for more information.
    Issue 2: We received five comments regarding the need for a 
translocation program. Two of the commenters suggested using a trap-
and-transplant program to alleviate the effects of overcrowding in 
portions of the Douglas County DPS's range. One commenter requested 
that we postpone delisting until a third population (in addition to the 
Douglas County and Columbia River populations) had been established via 
translocation from the Douglas County DPS in the Willamette Valley. Two 
of the peer reviewers offered views on translocation. One advised that 
translocation is appropriate for establishing new populations, but 
would not be a useful method to achieve density reduction in the 
existing population; the other reviewer stressed that the fate of 
translocated deer should be followed to determine the efficacy of such 
a program.
    Our Response: Translocation is likely to be an important component 
of the management of the Douglas County DPS after delisting. In order 
to augment the Douglas County DPS in the northern portion of its 
current range, the State

[[Page 43653]]

will likely continue to use trap-and-transplant operations, which may 
also be a useful tool to manage specific problem deer. Establishing a 
third population in the Willamette Valley before delisting the Douglas 
County DPS, is not necessary. A review of the threats to the Douglas 
County DPS (see the Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section, 
below) shows that it no longer requires the protection of the Act; 
therefore, delisting the Douglas County DPS is warranted.
    Issue 3: In its comments, the ODFW provided recommendations on 
additional research projects for the Douglas County DPS. Among the 
research projects the State would like to see carried out: Additional 
genetic studies to elucidate affinities among the Douglas County DPS, 
the Columbia River DPS, and the Idaho white-tailed deer; a new habitat 
mapping program for the Douglas County DPS; and new research on 
parasite and disease levels and their effects on the Douglas County 
    Our Response: Continued research is likely to be needed for future 
management of the Douglas County DPS and is appropriate for the State 
to lead, because the State will assume management responsibility for 
the population after delisting.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and regulations promulgated to implement the 
listing provisions of the Act (50 CFR part 424) set forth the 
procedures for listing, reclassifying, or removing species from listed 
status. We may determine a species to be an endangered or threatened 
species because of one or more of the five factors described in section 
4(a)(1) of the Act; we must consider these same five factors in 
delisting species. We may delist a species according to section 
424.11(d) if the best available scientific and commercial data indicate 
that the species is neither endangered nor threatened for the following 
reasons: (1) The species is extinct; (2) The species has recovered and 
is no longer endangered or threatened; and/or (3) The original 
scientific data used at the time the species was classified were in 
    After a thorough review of all available information, we have 
determined that the Douglas County DPS is no longer endangered or 
threatened with extinction. A substantial recovery has taken place 
since its listing in 1978, and none of the five factors addressed in 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act currently threatens the continued existence 
of the subspecies in Douglas County. These factors, and their relevance 
to the Douglas County DPS, are discussed below.
    A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of habitat or range. The Recovery Team recognized 
conversion of habitat to rural residential homesites and intensive 
livestock grazing as the prime threats to Columbian white-tailed deer 
habitat in Douglas County (Service 1983). A large area of habitat used 
by the deer has been protected, which has contributed to the Douglas 
County DPS's recovery. Since 1978, over 2,830 ha (7,000 ac) have come 
into public ownership within the range of the Douglas County DPS. This 
acreage includes the BLM's NBHMA and Douglas County's Mildred Kanipe 
Memorial Park. In addition, several smaller parcels owned by the county 
and private landowners provide important refuge or hiding cover for 
    The largest publicly owned parcel that provides habitat for deer is 
the NBHMA. The NBHMA, formerly the Dunning Ranch, was previously 
managed as a working cattle ranch. It was acquired by the BLM in 1994 
through a land exchange (BLM 1998) specifically to secure habitat for 
the deer since it lies within the Douglas County DPS's core habitat. 
The NBHMA is located east of Roseburg in the North Umpqua River Basin 
and is characterized by four distinct habitat types: Grasslands and oak 
savannah (29 percent); hardwood/conifer forest (52 percent); oak 
woodlands (17 percent); and other habitat such as rock outcrops, 
riparian areas, and wetlands (2 percent) (BLM 1998). As many as 348 
Columbian white-tailed deer have been estimated to occur on the NBHMA 
(S. Denney, ODFW, pers. comm. 2001). No active management occurred at 
the NBHMA in the period between its acquisition in 1994 and the 
completion of a management plan in 2001; this lack of management has 
resulted in a decline in habitat quality (BLM 2000). Thatch (rank 
vegetation) has built up in grassland areas, and invasion of 
undesirable shrub species, cedar encroachment in meadow areas, and 
conifer seedling establishment in oak woodlands have contributed to the 
decline in habitat quality by inhibiting forb production for deer 
forage, and by reducing the availability of preferred cover (BLM 1998). 
Even with this decline in habitat quality, the site continues to 
provide habitat for over 300 deer in the core of the Douglas County 
DPS's range. The delay in initiation of management activities resulted 
from the need to develop and approve a management plan for the parcel. 
A final management plan was approved in June 2001 (BLM 2001).
    Management objectives identified in the final NBHMA management plan 
include: (1) Increased availability, palatability, and nutritional 
quality of deer forage and browse; (2) maintenance of mature oak, 
shrub, and herbaceous vegetation components; (3) control of noxious 
weeds; and (4) development of water sources (BLM 2001). Livestock 
grazing, prescribed burning, thinning, and timber management are some 
of the management tools that will be used to achieve these objectives 
(BLM 2001); these activities will be scheduled to avoid sensitive 
periods (such as fawning and nursing) for the deer (Service 2001).
    Livestock grazing and prescribed burning will be used to increase 
the abundance of desirable forage plants, and thinning in oak woodlands 
and removal of encroaching conifers will provide more preferred open 
canopy hiding cover for the deer (BLM 2001; Service 2001). Heavy 
unregulated livestock grazing can be considered a threat to the 
Columbian white-tailed deer (Service 1983); the BLM recognizes that 
livestock grazing as a tool to improve deer habitat will have to be 
managed carefully on the NBHMA (BLM 2001). Poorly managed grazing can 
lead to the introduction or spread of non-native plant species, soil 
erosion and compaction, and reduction of desirable deer forage plants. 
However, the BLM will use livestock grazing as a tool to reduce thatch 
and annual grasses in favor of native perennial vegetation that the 
deer prefer, particularly in areas that are inaccessible to equipment 
used for mowing or seed drilling (BLM 2001). In the final management 
plan for the NBHMA, the BLM has stated that it will manage cattle herd 
dynamics, seasonal rotation, and stocking rates to enhance habitat for 
the deer (BLM 2001).
    The final management plan also calls for development of water 
guzzlers (small mechanized watering trough), development of springs, 
pond construction, stream rehabilitation, and wetland enhancement to 
increase the use of habitats that are lightly used by the deer at 
present due to limited water availability (BLM 2001). This, in 
conjunction with forage and habitat improvement, should increase the 
carrying capacity of the NBHMA for Columbian white-tailed deer and 
would likely result in a better distribution of animals across the 
management area (Service 2001).
    Implementation of the NBHMA final management plan will improve 
habitat quality for the deer (Service 2001). In

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October 2001, the BLM began implementing the management plan by 
conducting a controlled burn to remove thatch on 162 ha (400 ac); 
subsequent monitoring shows that the burn was successful, and new 
forage plants have sprung up in the burn zone (Ralph Klein, BLM, pers. 
comm. 2001). In 2002, the BLM implemented several habitat improvements, 
including prescribed burning, mowing, water developments, stream 
restoration, interior fence removal, and noxious weed control (District 
Manager, BLM, in litt. 2002). We will continue to track the 
implementation of the NBHMA management plan through annual monitoring 
reports from the BLM, and as part of the post-delisting monitoring 
    The management plan also provides for a range of recreational 
opportunities within the NBHMA (nonmotorized trail use, hunting, and a 
boat ramp) (BLM 2001). In our Biological Opinion on the management 
plan, we concluded that these activities are compatible with management 
for Columbian white-tailed deer and other special status species, 
because the potential increase in public use that may result is not 
anticipated to negatively impact the deer, and the large amount of 
escape cover and forage areas available will provide an ample amount of 
refuge where disturbance may be avoided (Service 2001).
    Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park, managed by the DCPD, is the second 
largest parcel of publicly owned land (445 ha) (1,100 ac) within the 
range of the Douglas County DPS; it lies about 16 km (10 mi) north of 
the NBHMA. Ms. Kanipe left the ranch to Douglas County in her will and 
directed the County to manage it as a wildlife refuge and working ranch 
(Kanipe 1983). Park activities, including recreation (equestrian and 
hiking trails), timber harvest, farming, and grazing are guided by the 
provisions in Ms. Kanipe's will, a new management plan, and the Douglas 
County Farm Lease program (Kanipe 1983; Douglas County Parks Department 
2001a; Douglas County Parks Department 2001b). Ms. Kanipe's will states 
that the ranch is to be used for park purposes and includes a number of 
conditions relating to its management as a park: (1) No hunting or 
trapping is allowed; (2) all animals, birds, and fish are protected as 
in a refuge, provided that the county, for park purposes, may plant and 
permit fishing in the ranch ponds; (3) trapping and hunting of 
predatory animals is allowed in the event that they become a nuisance 
and harmful to domestic and wild animals both within the park and on 
adjoining lands; (4) the County may establish a limited picnic ground 
and associated parking facilities, but no motorized vehicles are 
permitted within the park except as may be required for park 
construction and maintenance; (5) pasture lands are to be cared for and 
continued in grass, and equestrian trails shall be permitted; and (6) 
no timber shall be cut or harvested except as may be necessary, and 
even then, only upon a sustained yield basis with all revenue from 
timber cutting used by the county in capital improvements upon the park 
(Kanipe 1983). The current farm lease at the park allows the lessee to 
graze sheep and cattle at the ranch. The terms of the lease include 
provisions to maintain pasture quality, minimize soil erosion, 
eradicate noxious non-native plants, and protect native wildlife and 
watercourses (Douglas County Parks Department 2001b). The annual farm 
lease provisions are reviewed and approved by the ODFW biologists (M. 
Black, ODFW, pers. comm. 2001).
    Douglas County has prepared Coordinated Resource Management Plan 
Recommendations for Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park; a Steering Committee 
has been established, which includes representatives from our staff, 
local environmental and recreation groups, the Douglas County Parks 
Advisory Board, and individuals with forestry and range expertise 
(Douglas County Parks Department 2001a). The management plan covers a 
wide range of issues, including recreation, wildlife, grazing, timber 
management, and riparian conservation (Douglas County Parks Department 
    Since 1998, the ODFW has conducted three translocations of marked 
Columbian white-tailed deer to the park. Of the 18 deer transplanted to 
the park, 7 are known to have died. Of those that died, one was an 
accidental death, two were killed by vehicles, one is suspected to have 
died of natural causes, two were likely the result of predation, and 
one was most likely an illegal kill (M. Black, ODFW, pers. comm. 2001; 
S. Denney, ODFW, pers. comm. 2001). The survivors have remained in or 
near the park, and at least two radio collared does have been observed 
with fawns (S. Denney, ODFW, in litt. 2001). In 2001, 25 deer were 
counted in the park (S. Denney, ODFW, pers. comm. 2001).
    Between the years of 1996 and 2002, the ODFW implemented 23 
enhancement projects to improve habitat for Columbian white-tailed deer 
on private property in Douglas County; most of the projects focused on 
improving riparian habitat conditions (Lindsay Ball, ODFW, in litt. 
2002). These projects resulted in over 66 acres of stream-side habitat 
improvements for deer.
    One parcel on private property provides protection for Columbian 
white-tailed deer habitat in perpetuity. In 1992, TNC purchased the 
Oerding Preserve at Popcorn Swale, a 14-ha (35-ac) site which is 
managed primarily for the endangered rough popcorn flower 
(Plagiobothrys hirtus) (Service 2000). The management objective at the 
preserve is to restore the native wet prairie (TNC 2001), but the 
preserve also provides some suitable foraging habitat for deer. Surveys 
have detected about 20 Columbian white-tailed deer on the parcel (S. 
Denney, ODFW, pers. comm. 2001).
    Douglas County has implemented land-use plans and zoning ordinances 
that apply to private lands to protect habitat and assist in deer 
recovery (DCPD 2000a). These protective measures include retention of 
existing land uses that maintain essential habitat components. Minimum 
lot sizes for farm use and timberlands, as well as building setbacks 
along riparian zones, have been established to ensure maintenance of 
habitat and travel corridors (ODFW 1995; DCPD 2000a).
    Douglas County's Columbian White-tailed Deer Habitat Protection 
Program was established in 1980 (DCPD 2000a). The County, in 
conjunction with the ODFW and us, identified the range of habitat with 
the greatest density of Columbian white-tailed deer, and 29,743 ha 
(73,495 ac) were designated as Essential Habitat Areas (DCPD 1995). 
Potential conflicting uses within the Essential Habitat Areas were 
identified as: (1) Residential development in native riparian habitat; 
(2) additional livestock development in lowland river valleys; and (3) 
brush clearing, aimed at creating and improving pastures for livestock, 
that removes cover for deer (DCPD 2000a). To address these concerns, 
96.5 percent (28,553 ha) (70,555 ac) of the resource lands 
(agricultural or farm/forest) within the Essential Habitat Area are 
subject to a minimum parcel size of 32 ha (80 ac); any land division 
requests of less than 30 ha (75 ac) must be reviewed by the ODFW (DCPD 
2000a). Land zoned as nonresource lands within the Essential Habitat 
Area (3.5 percent) is limited to single family dwellings, and rural 
residential development is limited to 0.8 ha (2 ac) and 2 ha (5 ac) 
lots (DCPD 1995; DCPD 2000a). Another component of Douglas County's 
program to preserve habitat for the subspecies is a 30-m (100-ft) 
structural development setback from streams to preserve riparian 
corridors within the Essential Habitat Area (DCPD 2000a).

[[Page 43655]]

    Douglas County's application of zoning to protect Columbian white-
tailed deer has been an essential factor in the Douglas County DPS's 
recovery. The county has succeeded in limiting development and 
maintaining low human densities in the core of the deer population's 
range. The maintenance of open space on private lands significantly 
enhances the value of small publicly owned parcels used by the deer, 
such as Whistler's Bend County Park. Whistler's Bend County Park is 
directly south of the NBHMA, across the North Umpqua River. The park is 
71 ha (175 ac) in size and has a population of about 100 Columbian 
white-tailed deer (S. Denney, ODFW, pers. comm. 2001). The park is 
managed for human recreation needs (DCPD 2000a), but also provides 
hiding cover for deer, which make forays onto adjacent private lands to 
forage in the pastures and suburban yards surrounding the park (S. 
Denney, ODFW, pers. comm. 2001). Small parcels such as this park 
function as important refugia for deer that meet many of their foraging 
requirements on adjacent private lands (Recovery Team, in litt. 2001).
    Since management actions began, the Douglas County DPS population 
has increased, and its range has expanded. In the 1930s, the Columbian 
white-tailed deer population in Douglas County was estimated at fewer 
than 300 individuals within a range of about 79 km \2\ (31 mi \2\) 
(Crews 1939). By 1983, the population had increased to about 2,500 deer 
(Service 1983). The population has continued to grow and is currently 
estimated at over 6,000 deer (Lindsay Ball, ODFW, in litt. 2002). Along 
with this increase in numbers, the range also has expanded to the north 
and west, and the subspecies now occupies an area of approximately 800 
km \2\ (309 mi \2\) (ODFW 1995).
    B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes. The white-tailed deer is a popular big-game 
animal. Past overutilization was considered a threat to the Douglas 
County DPS, and was one of the several factors leading to its listing 
as endangered.
    Currently, the State of Oregon does not permit any hunting of 
white-tailed deer in western Oregon (ODFW 2001), and measures have been 
taken to reduce accidental shooting of white-tailed deer. For example, 
at present, black-tailed deer hunting is allowed on the NBHMA, but is 
limited by special permit only, usually 25 permits or fewer, and is 
limited to 1 or 2 weekends of the general deer season. Pre-hunt 
training on deer identification is mandatory to prevent the accidental 
shooting of white-tailed deer. This has resulted in hunting having no 
significant impacts to the Douglas County DPS population in this area 
(Service 2001).
    Recreational hunting and the possession of loaded firearms are not 
permitted in Douglas County parks, with the exception of limited 
waterfowl hunting in some reservoir parks. Therefore, deer hunting is 
prohibited at Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park and at Whistler's Bend 
County Park (J. Powers, pers. comm. 2001). Ms. Kanipe's will also 
states that no hunting or trapping is to be allowed in the park (Kanipe 
1983). TNC also prohibits hunting on the Oerding Preserve in order to 
maintain a refugia for Columbian white-tailed deer (TNC 2001).
    With the delisting of the Douglas County DPS, the Oregon Fish and 
Wildlife Commission, with input from the ODFW, will be responsible for 
determining whether a sport hunting season is justified. State 
guidelines direct the ODFW to manage wildlife populations to assure 
population health for present and future generations of Oregonians to 
enjoy (ODFW, in litt. 2001). Initially, the ODFW intends to focus its 
efforts on expanding the range of the Columbian white-tailed deer with 
a trap and relocation program (ODFW, in litt. 2001). A recreational 
hunt could be considered as another tool to reduce population densities 
and improve herd health in selected areas (ODFW, in litt. 2001). The 
population currently numbers more than 6,000 deer, a number considered 
large enough to withstand some level of regulated harvest (ODFW, in 
litt. 2001).
    Poaching, or illegal hunting, of Columbian white-tailed deer has 
been documented in the Douglas County DPS (Ricca 1999; ODFW, in litt. 
2001). During a recent 3-year study, 3 deer, out of 64 marked, were 
believed to have been taken by poachers (Ricca 1999). The Oregon State 
Police actively prosecutes poachers in Douglas County; cooperation 
among the Oregon State Police, the ODFW, our local biologists, and our 
National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory has resulted in many 
successful cases. In each of the past 3 years, the Oregon State Police 
has successfully prosecuted three to five poaching cases. Nine of these 
illegal kills were proved to be intentional poaching, whereas four were 
cases of misidentification (i.e., confusion with legally hunted black-
tailed deer) (Sgt. J. Myhre, pers. comm. 2001). This low level of 
illegal hunting is not considered a threat to the survival of the 
population (ODFW 1995).
    Other than sport hunting, we do not anticipate an appreciable 
demand for Columbian white-tailed deer for commercial or recreational 
purposes. There may be a small demand for deer for research. Scientific 
studies, permitted under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act, have resulted 
in the take of as many as 40 deer during 1 year from the Douglas County 
DPS (Kistner and Denney 1991). These permitted takings have not had 
measurable impacts on population trends in the Douglas County DPS. Once 
the Douglas County DPS is delisted, the ODFW will administer scientific 
taking permits based on the merits of the proposed research and with 
consideration of the effects to the population (ODFW, in litt. 2001).
    We believe that ample protections are in place under State law and 
regulations, and thus overutilization is unlikely to be a threat to the 
population in the future. Our proposed monitoring plan (see the 
Monitoring section, below) will track the status of the Douglas County 
DPS for at least 5 years following delisting, which would alert us to 
any new threat of overutilization.
    C. Disease or predation. No known epizootic (epidemic in animals) 
diseases have affected the Douglas County DPS, although several studies 
have documented the incidence of bacterial and parasitic infections. 
For example, in a recent study, disease was determined to have 
contributed to the deaths of adult deer in poor nutritional condition. 
Of 29 adult deer that died during a 3-year study, 28 percent died of a 
combination of disease and emaciation (Ricca 1999; Ricca et al. 2002). 
Necropsies revealed pneumonia, lungworms, and high levels of 
ectoparasite infestation; none of these diseases would have been likely 
to kill an otherwise healthy adult deer, but in combination with a poor 
nutritional state (as evidenced by emaciation), these diseases were 
likely a factor in the cause of death (Ricca 1999; Ricca et al. 2002). 
Diseases noted in fawn necropsies also included pneumonia and 
occasional instances of bacterial or viral infections (Ricca 1999). An 
earlier study by the ODFW found moderate to high levels of internal and 
external parasites on adult deer and fawns, with low levels of viral 
diseases communicable to livestock (Kistner and Denney 1991).
    High internal parasite loads have been considered an indication of 
high deer densities (ODFW, in litt. 2001), and recent research has 
found evidence that some Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County 
are suffering poor health resulting from high density (Ricca 1999). 
Delisting the Douglas

[[Page 43656]]

County DPS would allow more management flexibility, such as hazing to 
disperse the deer to reduce or prevent large deer concentrations, or a 
regulated harvest, which could reduce the density of deer, resulting in 
improved herd health.
    Deer hair-loss syndrome has been a concern in the Columbia River 
DPS, but has not been prevalent in the Douglas County DPS. This 
syndrome appears to be caused by a combination of internal and external 
parasites; internal parasites such as Dictyocaulus viviparus and 
Parelaphostrongylus spp. invade the lungs of infected deer, resulting 
in a low-grade pneumonia (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 
(WDFW) 1999; Biederbeck 2002). The pneumonia infection may suppress the 
deer's immune system, making infected deer more susceptible to external 
parasites. The disease is not necessarily fatal, but hair loss can 
result in death due to hypothermia in winter (WDFW 1999; Biederbeck 
2002). Spotlight surveys by the ODFW noted 2 deer, out of 329 counted, 
with obvious hair loss problems (ODFW, in litt. 2001). Two marked deer 
on the NBHMA are known to have died with hair loss; an infected fawn 
was noted, but is not known to have died from the disease (ODFW, in 
litt. 2001). Deer hair-loss syndrome is not currently considered to be 
a threat to the Douglas County DPS, but the post-delisting monitoring 
program will include tracking the incidence of this disease.
    In August 2001, a probable case of adenovirus, a viral disease, was 
identified through laboratory analysis in a Columbian white-tailed deer 
fawn in Douglas County. It is likely that the fawn contracted the 
disease while being held in a rehabilitation facility. This would be 
the first known incidence of this disease in white-tailed deer (Dr. 
Beth Valentine, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Oregon State 
University, in litt. 2001; Dr. Terry Hensley, D.V.M., U.S. Department 
of Agriculture, Veterinary Services, pers. comm. 2001). Adenovirus 
infection is potentially fatal to young deer, which may succumb to 
respiratory failure, hemorrhagic syndromes, or acute diarrhea and 
dehydration caused by the disease (Dr. T. Hensley, pers. comm. 2001). 
The disease has been previously detected in mule deer (Odocoileus 
hemionus) in northern California. An outbreak in the 1990s caused 
widespread mortality, but appears to have had no long-term effect on 
the population in California (Tapscott 1998). Therefore, we have 
determined that adenovirus is not a significant threat to the Douglas 
DPS. However, since its existence had been confirmed in the Douglas 
County DPS, the post-delisting monitoring program will include tracking 
the incidence of this disease.
    Predation is known to be a leading cause of death in white-tailed 
deer populations (Halls 1978). Ricca et al. (2002) studied survival of 
Columbian white-tailed deer fawns, and found that predation was the 
most frequent known cause of death for fawns in his study. Bobcats 
(Lynx rufus) were the dominant predator, and researchers found some 
evidence of predation by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and domestic dogs 
(Ricca et al. 2002). Coyotes (Canis latrans) are frequent predators of 
white-tailed deer elsewhere (Halls 1978), but recent research (Ricca et 
al. 2002) found no evidence of fawns killed by coyotes in Douglas 
County. The apparent absence of coyote predation may be due in part to 
the Wildlife Services predator control program at the U.S. Department 
of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). 
Douglas County contracts with APHIS, Wildlife Services, to conduct 
predator control. The program focuses mainly on coyotes, but also 
responds to fox, bobcat, and cougar (Puma concolor) complaints (Stan 
Thomas, District Supervisor, APHIS, Wildlife Services, pers. comm. 
2001). The purpose of the program is to protect sheep and cattle 
ranching operations in the area, but it may also provide incidental 
benefits to the Douglas County DPS by reducing the number of potential 
predators on fawns. In summary, disease and predation are not 
considered threats to the Douglas County DPS.
    D. Inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. The lack of 
adequate Federal, State, or local regulatory mechanisms for protecting 
habitat and controlling take was largely responsible for the decline of 
the deer. Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County have recovered 
because Federal, State, and local governments have exercised their 
authorities to protect the subspecies and its habitat.
    For example, the State of Oregon currently prohibits hunting of all 
white-tailed deer in western Oregon (described in Factor B, above). 
Delisting would provide the State with the flexibility to allow some 
regulated harvest to reduce population density if necessary to improve 
herd health.
    Douglas County also provides important regulatory protection for 
Columbian white-tailed deer habitat on private lands through its 
Comprehensive Plan and Deer Habitat Protection Program (DCPD 1995; 
2000a). The Comprehensive Plan addresses Oregon's Statewide Planning 
Goals. Goal 5 requires local governments to conserve open space and 
protect natural and scenic resources for future generations; Douglas 
County's Columbian White-Tailed Deer Habitat Protection Program, which 
is described in more detail under Factor A, was established in 1980 
under Goal 5 (DCPD 2000a). Statewide planning Goals 3 and 4 provide 
guidelines to maintain the rural landscape in Douglas County by 
protecting agriculture, timber, and transitional (farm/forest) lands. 
These goals were also incorporated into Douglas County's Columbian 
White-tailed Deer Habitat Protection Program, and also provide a 
measure of protection for deer habitat (DCPD 2000a). Douglas County's 
zoning and planning ordinances and county park designations are 
recognized in the Recovery Plan as valid methods to secure habitat, and 
will provide continuing regulatory protection of Columbian white-tailed 
deer habitat unless changed through a public process.
    E. Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence. There are a number of other threats to the survival of 
individual Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County. These include 
road kill, hybridization with black-tailed deer, emaciation, conflicts 
with private landowners, and fire.
    Road kill is one of the major sources of mortality for white-tailed 
deer in the United States (Halls 1978). Ricca et al. (2002) concluded 
that road kill was the second most frequent cause of death in his 
study; they determined that five deer (17 percent of marked adult deer) 
over a period of 3 years were killed by vehicle collisions. Apparently, 
the incidence of road kill is fairly constant. Almost 20 years earlier, 
Smith (1981) found car collisions to be the second most frequent cause 
of death for deer in Douglas County. Although road kill is a major 
source of mortality for the Douglas County DPS, it has not been a 
limiting factor for population growth (D. Jackson, ODFW, pers. comm. 
    Hybridization between Columbian white-tailed deer and Columbian 
black-tailed deer has long been suspected to occur, and probable 
hybrids have been observed in Douglas County for many years (ODFW 
1995). Biologists from the ODFW have noted evidence of hybridization 
(i.e., deer with physical characteristics of both white-tailed and 
black-tailed deer), but concluded that the rate of cross-breeding is 
not a threat to the continued existence of the Douglas County DPS 
(Kistner and Denney 1991). Gavin and May (1988) conducted laboratory 
analyses of muscle samples from Columbian white-tailed

[[Page 43657]]

deer and Columbian black-tailed deer in Douglas County and found no 
evidence of hybridization between the two subspecies.
    Emaciation, which may be the result of poor forage quality, was 
determined to be the leading cause of death in a recent study. During 3 
years of research on marked deer, Ricca (1999) found that 28 percent of 
the deer that died during the study were emaciated and diseased (see 
disease discussion in Factor B, above). This finding is also consistent 
with an earlier study (Smith 1981). High deer density may result in 
poor habitat quality through overuse of habitat resources (Ricca 1999). 
Management actions to reduce deer density or increase habitat quality 
could reduce the incidence of emaciation. Active habitat management 
(prescribed burning) to improve forage quality has begun at the 
NBHMA[reg]. Klein, pers comm., 2001; District Manager, BLM, in litt. 
    With growth of the deer population, deer-human conflicts have 
increased. From 1996 to 2000, the ODFW recorded 249 complaints from 
private property owners with deer depredation problems (ODFW, in litt. 
2001). Resident suburban deer can cause serious damage to croplands, 
gardens, and ornamental plantings. Conflict ensues because under the 
Act it is illegal to ``take'' listed deer, which includes such actions 
as hazing or harassing to disperse the deer, even where serious 
continued damage is occurring. Delisting the Douglas County DPS allows 
more flexibility in development and implementation of a management plan 
to control and enhance deer populations, while fostering better 
relationships with landowners and more effective long-term 
    Fire has historically played a large part in shaping habitat for 
Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County. Although fire may have 
negative short-term impacts on habitat, deer distribution, and numbers, 
the long-term effects can be beneficial by removing decadent brush, 
promoting the growth of nutritious vegetation, and maintaining the oak/
grassland habitat that the deer prefer (Halls 1978; BLM 2000). 
Columbian white-tailed deer evolved with the occurrence of fire in the 
ecosystem, and prescribed burning is one of the key management 
prescriptions for restoring and maintaining habitat quality for the 
deer at the NBHMA (BLM 2000; Service 2001). The occurrence of a large-
scale devastating wildfire is unlikely. The growing human population of 
Douglas County demands active fire suppression on public and private 
lands which, will likely convey some protection for the deer.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available concerning the past, present, and future threats 
faced by the Douglas County DPS. On the basis of this evaluation, we 
conclude the threats that caused the Douglas County population of 
Columbian white-tailed deer to decline no longer pose a risk to the 
continued survival of the DPS, and its removal from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife is appropriate. The population is 
robust, and protection of abundant habitat used by the deer in Douglas 
County justifies delisting the DPS. During the public comment period on 
the supplemental proposed rule, we asked for review from three 
independent peer reviewers. All three peer reviewers agreed that the 
data support our decision to delist.
    In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(d), we have determined that this 
rule relieves an existing restriction and good cause exists to make the 
effective date of this rule immediate. Delay in implementation of this 
delisting would cost government agencies staff time and monies on 
conducting formal section 7 consultation on actions that may affect a 
species no longer in need of the protection under the Act. Relieving 
the existing restriction associated with this listed species will 
enable Federal agencies to minimize any further delays in project 
planning and implementation for actions that may affect the Douglas 
County DPS of Columbian white-tailed deer.

Effects of the Rule

    Promulgation of this final rule will affect the protection afforded 
to the Douglas County DPS under the Act. Taking, interstate commerce, 
import, and export of deer from the Douglas County DPS are no longer 
prohibited under the Act. In addition, with the removal of the Douglas 
County DPS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, Federal 
agencies are no longer required to consult with us under section 7 of 
the Act to ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by 
them is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the deer in 
Douglas County, Oregon.
    Harvest and permitted scientific take will be regulated by the 
State of Oregon, and will be considered in the context of potential 
effects to population stability (ODFW, in litt. 2001). Biological data 
such as sex ratios, age, reproductive status, and health status (i.e., 
parasitism and bacterial infections) from individual deer taken through 
legal harvest or the issuance of special permits will be available to 
inform future management. Delisting the Douglas County DPS is expected 
to have positive effects in terms of management flexibility to State 
and local governments. Deer densities in selected areas may be reduced 
by management actions. Individual deer could be controlled by hazing, 
and targeted individuals could be removed where repeated severe damage 
to agricultural crops, gardens, or ornamental plantings was documented. 
Thus, delisting will allow managers greater flexibility to take actions 
to reduce overcrowding in selected areas, which could result in a 
healthier deer population.
    The delisting of the Douglas County DPS of Columbian white-tailed 
deer will not change the endangered status of the Columbia River DPS of 
this subspecies. It remains fully protected by the Act.


    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us, in cooperation with the 
States, to implement a monitoring program for not less than 5 years for 
all species that have been recovered and delisted. The purpose of this 
requirement is to develop a program that detects the failure of any 
delisted species to sustain itself without the protective measures 
provided by the Act. If, at any time during the monitoring period, data 
indicate that protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we 
can initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency 
    A monitoring plan is being developed for the Douglas County DPS. 
The plan will be designed to detect changes in the status of the 
population, and will be comprised of three components: (1) Monitoring 
population size and other key population parameters; (2) tracking the 
incidence of disease in the herd; and (3) periodic assessment of 
habitat protection efforts in the Douglas County DPS's range.
    The three components of the plan will likely be addressed as 
follows: (1) We will work with the ODFW to continue spring and fall 
population surveys; data from these surveys will allow us to assess key 
population parameters including population size, trend, recruitment, 
and distribution. (2) Data on the incidence of disease will be gathered 
to follow trends in contagious diseases in the herd, particularly those 
diseases that have a potential to become epizootic (e.g., adenovirus 
and deer hair loss syndrome). Additional research into potential 
epizootic diseases may be conducted, when warranted, in cooperation 
with other agencies during the monitoring period. (3) Habitat 
protection efforts will be assessed in a

[[Page 43658]]

coordinated periodic review of the various management plans (i.e., 
NBHMA, Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park, and Douglas County's Deer Habitat 
Protection Program). Data from the three components of the monitoring 
program will be evaluated by our experts, the ODFW, and the Recovery 
Team, as appropriate.
    If at any time during the monitoring period we detect a significant 
change in the population, we will evaluate and change the monitoring 
methods, if appropriate, and/or consider relisting the DPS, if 
warranted. At the end of the monitoring period, we will decide if 
relisting, continued monitoring, or an end to monitoring activities is 
appropriate. If warranted (e.g., data show a significant decline or 
increased threats), we will consider continuing monitoring beyond the 
specified period and may modify the monitoring program based on an 
evaluation of the results of the initial monitoring program.
    The monitoring plan is being developed with the assistance of our 
technical staff and the ODFW, and will be peer reviewed. When a draft 
of the monitoring plan is complete, we will publish a notice of its 
availability in the Federal Register inviting public comment.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320, 
which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 
3501 et seq.), require that interested members of the public and 
affected agencies have an opportunity to comment on agency information 
collection and recordkeeping activities (5 CFR 1320.8(d)). The OMB 
regulations at 5 CFR 1320.3(c) define a collection of information as 
the obtaining of information by or for an agency by means of identical 
questions posed to, or identical reporting, recordkeeping, or 
disclosure requirements imposed on 10 or more persons. Furthermore, 5 
CFR 1320.3(c)(4) specifies that ``ten or more persons'' refers to the 
persons to whom a collection of information is addressed by the agency 
within any 12-month period.
    This rule does not include any collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The 
information needed to monitor the status of the Columbian white-tailed 
deer will be collected primarily by Service, ODFW, and the BLM. We do 
not anticipate a need to request data or other information from the 
public, other than the ODFW, to satisfy monitoring information needs. 
If it becomes necessary to collect information from 10 or more 
individuals, groups, or organizations per year, we will first obtain 
information collection approval from OMB.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an Environmental Assessment or an 
Environmental Impact Statement, as defined under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this designation 
in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 
section, above).


    The primary author of this final rule is Cat Brown, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 
section, above).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, and Transportation.

Regulations Promulgation

For the reasons set out above, we hereby amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth 


1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

2. We amend section 17.11(h) by revising the entry for ``deer, 
Columbian white-tailed, Odocoileus virginianus leucurus, under 
``Mammals'' in the table ``List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife'', to read as follows:

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                       Species                                                   Vertebrate
------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical       Special
                                                          Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed     habitat        rules
           Common name              Scientific name                              threatened

                                                                      * * * * * * *
Deer, Columbian white-tailed....  Odocoileus           U.S.A. (WA, OR)....  Columbia River       E                    1,738            NA            NA
                                   virginianus                               (Clark, Cowlitz,
                                   leucurus.                                 Pacific, Skamania,
                                                                             and Wahkiakum
                                                                             Counties, WA, and
                                                                             Clatsop, Columbia,
                                                                             and Multnomah
                                                                             Counties, OR).

                                                                      * * * * * * *

[[Page 43659]]

    Dated: July 1, 2003.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-17756 Filed 7-23-03; 8:45 am]