Think Wild Executive Director, Sally Compton, Supports the Conservation of Skyline Forest in Bend, Oregon
Alex Hardison, Central Oregon Land Watch Associate Engagement Manager, interviewed Think Wild Executive Director Sally Compton about Think Wild’s position on Skyline Forest.
- Can you briefly introduce yourself and Think Wild?
My name is Sally Compton, and I am the executive director of Think Wild. Think Wild is a nonprofit wildlife hospital and conservation center, based here in Bend, that works to inspire the community to care for and protect native wildlife through education, conservation, and rehabilitation.
- What are some of the iconic wildlife species that rely on habitat in the East Cascades slopes and foothills, including Skyline Forest?
A diverse range of raptors, songbirds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians rely on dense and connected coniferous forest habitat, like we find in Skyline Forest. This includes our more well-known and common native wildlife like red-tailed hawks, eagles, chickadees, and cougar but also more rare and declining species, like Great Grey Owls, Sierra Nevada red foxes, and many declining species of bats and woodpeckers. And of course, mule deer.
- What happens when wildlife species like mule deer are displaced from their habitat?
When wildlife species like mule deer are displaced from their habitat, they are forced to expand their range to seek out new territory and resources, much of which is not the quality that they need. They have to exert more energy, with less access to food, water, and shelter. And often this displacement forces them into situations where they’re more exposed to danger, including predation, increased competition, and vulnerability to human conflicts.
- Are there any examples from Think Wild’s work that highlight the repercussions of mule deer habitat loss?
Think Wild operates a wildlife hotline to respond to inquiries from the public about injured and orphaned wildlife, or general wildlife questions. In 2022, we received more than 200 calls about mule deer, and almost all of those were related to human conflicts with deer. Deer hit by cars, caught in fencing, or entangled with foreign objects like Christmas lights and rope. Because the state does not allow for the rehabilitation of adult deer, many of those cases end in euthanasia. Mule deer being forced into urban areas puts their populations at risk as well as human safety.
- Why is Skyline Forest important for mule deer and other regional wildlife species?
Skyline Forest makes up a huge section of the limited remaining, connected and continuous, coniferous habitat in Central Oregon. It is also part of the mule deer winter range. Mule deer migrate to their winter range to find areas without as much snow cover and access to vegetation for food and shelter. Development and human disturbance in these areas disrupts the habitat and migration pathways of wild deer, and other wildlife, who shy away from humans and exposed areas and then must expend more energy to access the resources they need.
- With regards to the future of Skyline Forest, what would be the ideal outcome for the mule deer that rely on the landscape for critical winter range and migration corridors?
I think the ideal outcome for the mule deer, and other wildlife, that rely on the habitat within skyline forest would be to protect it from development and to promote the growth and maintenance of old forest conditions as time goes on. It’s possible to balance limited forest production and public recreation while still prioritizing the needs of wildlife and the greater ecosystem. Residential development would make this impossible.
For more information on how to get involved and support efforts to conserve skyline forests in Central Oregon, go to: https://www.centraloregonlandwatch.org/