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Zumwalt Prairie

An Uncommon Visitor Caught on Camera

Oregon’s Zumwalt Prairie is a wild, wide-open landscape teeming with life. Mammals—large and small—tremendous bird life, diverse insects and nearly 500 plant species call this place home.

With rolling upland prairies and a variety of sloped, niche habitats, the life at Zumwalt can quickly go unnoticed. Insert The Nature Conservancy’s wildlife cams. Beginning the spring of 2012, our Zumwalt team installed four trail cameras to help document this unnoticed activity. And document did it ever!

From elk and wolves to bobcats and bears, this cam has captured some amazing activity. So, what does all of this wildlife activity say about our conservation efforts? Our Zumwalt Project Director Jeff Fields gives us the answers.

The Nature Conservancy:

How does our work at Zumwalt affect the species living there?

Jeff Fields:

Our work at Zumwalt and with neighboring landowners focuses on maintaining a large, undeveloped landscape that is managed to provide habitat for native plants and animals. One specific effort in doing this surrounds restoring aspen stands and streams at Zumwalt. Both of these are two relatively rare parts of grasslands that have declined or been degraded over the past 100 years. They are also extremely important to a wide variety of life. The declines have happened for a variety of reasons, so our approach is to build an understanding of why we’ve seen declines in these areas, and then take actions to recover or restore those areas.

The Nature Conservancy:

What other species have we seen at Zumwalt?

Jeff Fields:

There are too many to list here, but some of my favorites include badgers, golden eagles, snowy owls, Belding’s ground squirrels and black bears.

The Nature Conservancy:

How often have we seen wolves here?

Jeff Fields:

So far, I’ve only seen one wolf on the prairie, but I’ve also seen tracks and the remains of an elk killed. However, we know the Preserve has gotten fairly frequent use over the past four years, especially in the winter and spring of the year.

The Nature Conservancy:

Are we excited to see wolves on the property?

Jeff Fields:

Wolves certainly can get people excited – with all sorts of emotions! I am glad we have wolves back in Oregon, including on Conservancy properties. But, it is important to remember that wolves are here because of the actions of our entire community, not any single landowner. This includes people who have managed land and wildlife to create suitable habitat, and especially people who have changed their lives and livelihoods so wolves can be here. So, when I hear a report of a wolf on our lands, I’m happy to hear about it, but at the same time I am keenly aware of the potential for livestock losses, and the implications that has for the long-term recovery of wolves in Oregon.

The Nature Conservancy:

What does seeing more wolves mean for other wildlife in the area?

Jeff Fields:

Wolves are a top predator that has been missing from this landscape for many decades, and this absence has likely had many effects on the prairie. So, I’m hopeful over time we will see their positive ecological effects. In theory, they could impact everything from fish to birds. But at Zumwalt, there are a lot of unknowns about what the impacts will be on other wildlife. The degree of impact will depend on how much tolerance people develop for sharing the landscape with wolves, and that is the biggest unknown.


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