Monday, January 3, 2011

Trip to Burns, Oregon

December 27, 2010 – My trip to Burns, Oregon started out at 5:00 AM after a struggle to find three hours of sleep.  My family and I decided it was best to travel from Stanwood, Washington (a small town in the northwest portion of the state) to my home in Ellensburg the night before.  Starting from my apartment would shave 3 hours off a trip to southeast Oregon.  As it was, the google maps route took my Dad and I (Mom stayed at my apartment with Saige) down 395, a beautiful and scenic route over 3, or 4 (maybe 5?) passes starting with Battle Mountain.  Needless to say, it was a long, snowy drive.  We finally arrived at Burns around one in the afternoon.  I contacted Bill Anderson, District Rangeland Specialist, but when he did not answer, Dad and I drove straight to the Burns/Hines Wild Horse Corrals. 
There we saw a lot of beautiful, colorful horses.  I have a feeling my Dad was cutting out particular beauties and wishing he could take one home.  There was a buckskin stud that had caught the attention of both Dad and I.  I believe I took several pictures of him.  They were all fuzzy with their winter coats and quite healthy looking animals.  After we had wandered around a bit until our toes were frozen, Dad and I hopped in the car for the short trek to the district office.  Once there, I made contact with Bill Anderson and we had a sit down chat.
I learned a lot of helpful things.  It may have seemed silly to drive over six hours for a half hour conversation, but I gained so much more meeting Bill face to face.  Most importantly, I changed my thesis topic, once again.  He started talking about how expensive and time consuming a study on herd behavior would be.  It would likely involve radio collars to track the horses via GPS and more time than I could put in during one summer.  Upon asking what studies I could do over one summer, we settled on sage grouse habitat in the Riddle Mountain area.   It is very exciting for me to be able to look at this HMA where the unique Kiger's are since it was my Dad's Kiger stud that first interested me in free-roaming horses.

The horses here use the same habitat on ridges that the sage grouse also inhabit.  My study will look into who is doing the damage to these ridges, horses or cows?  Since sage grouse are a declining species, it is an important study to understand what grazing animal is doing the damage so that overgrazing can be prevented by controlling population.
Beginning this summer, my plan is to be up on Riddle Mountain the first or second week of June.  This is when grasses are ripening and horses have moved up onto the ridges.  I will do vegetation surveys and use cages to determine amount of use.  (I am not entirely knowledgeable about how my study and methods will unfold at this point.)  Since the cattle are then turned out in July sometime, about 900 head, I will return during this month and repeat the same methods I did in June.  I will return again in August/September.  This will give me three weeks of data and a chance to see just horse use and then combined horse use with livestock use.
Another awesome part of my graduate research is that I will get to be an observer to the Kiger horse gather in September!  Because I will be conducting studies in the area throughout the summer, Bill said this will ensure that I will get a ticket to be able to watch.  I might even be able to get closer than the public and also observe on non-public viewing days.  My Dad tells me to take pictures and watch for nice looking Kigers.  He wants to adopt one, of course.
Things are finally coming together for my thesis.  I am so excited to get a move on it.  But, now I have a lot of research ahead of me concerning rangeland vegetation and sage grouse.

Here is the link to the photos I took during my trip.  I think the link should work....

1 comment:

  1. That's very exciting. Riddle Mtn is virtually in my back yard. I invite you to let me know when you're here and we could meet and visit. My email is gtyyup at wildblue dot net