Julia Butler Hansen Refuge
for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer
|46 Steamboat Slough Rd
Cathlamet, WA 98612 - 0566
Phone Number: 360-795-3915
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Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer
Located in southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon, the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge was established in 1972 specifically to protect and manage the endangered Columbian white-tailed deer. The refuge contains over 5,600 acres of pastures, forested tidal swamps, brushy woodlots, marshes, and sloughs along the Columbia River in both Washington and Oregon.
The valuable habitat the refuge preserves for the deer also benefits a large variety of wintering birds, a small herd of Roosevelt elk, river otter, various reptiles and amphibians including painted turtles and red-legged frogs, and several pairs of nesting bald eagles and osprey. Today, about 300 Columbina white-tailed deer live on the refuge.
Another 300-400 live on private lands along the river. The areas upstream from the refuge on Puget Island and on the Oregon side of the river are vital to reestablishing and maintaining viable populations of the species. The refuge works with private and corporate landowners to maintain and reestablish deer on their lands.
Getting There . . .
From Interstate 5, take the Longview exit. Proceed west on Highway 4 to Cathlamet. Continue on Highway 4 about 1 mile past Cathlamet to Steamboat Slough Road (just west of Elochoman River bridge). Turn left on Steamboat Slough Road. Refuge headquarters is about 0.25 miles to the right.
Hunting, Price, Tenasillahe, and Wallace Islands are accessible only by boat. Public launching facilities are available in Washington at the Cathlamet Mooring Basin, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife boat launch on State Highway 4 between Cathlamet and Skamokawa, and Skamokawa Vista Park.
Launch facilities on the Oregon shore are available at Aldrich Point east of Astoria. Kayak and canoe rentals are available at Skamokawa. Tidal flows, strong winds, and large wakes from ships can make boating difficult and sometimes dangerous.
Deep channels separate most of the islands at high tide, but during low tides, sandbars and exposed logs may hinder your travel or even ground your boat. Consult navigation charts and tide tables before venturing out.
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The refuge actively manages land and water to change the landscape to benefit wildlife, primarily the Columbian white-tailed deer. The refuge is managed to provide a mosaic of woodland, grassland, and wetland habitats. Approximately one quarter of the area is managed for deer forage through haying and grazing.
The other three quarters are set aside as woodlands and wetlands. Woodlands adjacent to managed grasslands are essential to deer because they use them for cover when feeding and to provide for their young fawns. To maintain a mosaic of grasslands and wetland, refuge managers plant trees and bushes in selected areas.
Fencing is needed to protect the tender seedlings from browsing by deer and elk until the woodlots are established. Managed grasslands are especially important to deer nutrition during late summer when grasses seed out and dry up, and in the winter when they provide a nutritious option to woody vegetation.
Cattle grazing and haying are used in selected pastures to maintain the short nutritious growth of grass and forbs that deer prefer to eat. Weed control, balancing soil acidity, fertilizing, reseeding, and discing are also used in the pastures to provide the most nutritious and natural food for the deer.
Water management is the key to providing the diverse habitats the deer and other wildlife require. The mainland and Tenasillahe Island units, which were once tidally flooded, now have dikes protecting them from the Columbia River. Consequently, they stay drier and support many more deer than lands that flood with the tides.
The coyote is one of the most successful animals at adapting to a variety of human habitats. Therefore, coyote numbers can become too high on the refuge and reduce the deer population. Because of the endangered status of the deer, coyotes are sometimes removed from the refuge to protect the deer herd. A small herd of Roosevelt elk lives on the mainland unit of the refuge.
Although elk are magnificent animals and are thrilling to see in the wild, they compete with the deer for limited resources. Herds of elk can feed on and trample shrubs and woodlots, reducing food and cover for the deer. To manage the herd size, individuals are periodically trapped and relocated to remote areas.
A nine-foot-tall wire fence keeps the elk from returning. To meet the needs of other wildlife, including a large diversity of water birds, refuge staff members also maintain and manage a variety of wetlands. During late fall and winter, increased rainfall fills sloughs and impoundments, creating opportunities for ducks, geese, shorebirds, and wading birds to rest and feed.
The refuge has enhanced some wetlands by installing water control structures and removing dense vegetation to create shallow open water wetlands, which also help control flooding from heavy precipitation. A large expulsion pump and tide gates are used to control or remove excess water.