Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 7, 2015

Contact: Loyal Mehrhoff, (808)351-3200,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to Downlist Columbian White-tailed Deer
From 'Endangered' to 'Threatened' in Oregon, Washington

Unique Deer Joins Hundreds of Species Spurred Toward Recovery by
Endangered Species Act Protection

PORTLAND, Ore.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed downlisting the Columbian white-tailed deer from “endangered” to “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.

This unique deer lives exclusively on islands and river banks on the lower Columbia River in Oregon and Washington. It was among the first group of animals protected under the Act in 1967. Habitat protections and acquisitions followed, and deer were introduced to new islands, increasing its range and security. As a result the Columbian white-tailed deer increased from 337 individuals in 1976 to 830 in 2014. Its population and range are expected to continue growing.

Population graph

“It’s gratifying to see the Columbian white-tailed deer improving so well,” said Loyal Mehrhoff, recovery director at the Center for Biological Diversity and former field supervisor at the Pacific Islands office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Recovery hasn't been easy -- the deer’s had its share of ups and downs. But with the help of national wildlife refuges, tribes, conservation groups, states and local landowners the Fish and Wildlife Service stuck with it and got the species on the right track.”

The Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge was established on the Washington side of the river in 1972 specifically to protect and recover the Columbian white-tailed deer. Federal recovery plans were created for it 1976 and 1983. Forest and meadow habitats were restored and expanded. Translocation of deer to new islands and habitats has been ongoing since the 1990s.

The Columbia River deer is far from alone in its positive recovery trend. Another population of the species in Douglas County, Ore., grew from 1,200 deer in 1975 to more than 6,000 in 2003 when it was declared recovered and removed from the endangered species list.

“The Endangered Species Act is one of America’s most successful environmental laws," said Mehrhoff. “The majority of the nearly 1,700 species under its care have increased in population size since listing and very few have gone extinct. It took hundreds of years to drive these species to extinction’s edge and it’s remarkable that, thanks to the Endangered Species Act and lots of hard work, we’ve pulled them back and put them on a recovery trajectory in just a few decades.”

Grizzly bears in Montana, bighorn sheep in California, sea turtles in Texas, crocodiles in Florida, sturgeon in New York, plovers in Massachusetts, Laysan ducks in Hawaii and wood bison in Alaska are all on upward trends due to tools provided by the Endangered Species Act.

More information on endangered species recovery trends can be found at

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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