I know this site is quiet, but I'm gonna put this up for anyone who comes along and has any good info or stories of wildlife, current or even past, up the Clackamas.
The Clackamas River drainage has had a sharp decline in its overall population of deer and elk since logging began getting curtailed decades ago. The way things have gone, it's been a perfect storm of such. When the land was heavily logged and clear-cut, it did what the forest fires of yesteryear did, expose the ground to sun and let the foliage grow. That in turn supported a population of deer and elk.
Fast forward to the 90's, logging had slowed dramatically due to environmental pressure. The areas that had been logged were replanted with single species. These mass replantings of single species largely sterilized the woods. Gone were the healthy mixed in areas of deciduous trees and other species, in were the chockingly thick tracts of young Douglas Fir.
There's more to it, such as modern fire suppression, but that's a summary.
One more reason we have so little 'game' animals up the Clackamas, Measure 18 in 1994. Specifically, the law banning the use of dogs to hunt cougars and bears. ODFW at the time stated that there were only 200 cougars left in the state of Oregon. Well now they estimate there to be more than 6,200. Many biologists believe there may be double that. (Me included based on their scat). A cougar kills a deer or elk every 5-10 days. If you average it out to one a week, that's over 50 a year per cougar. Simple math tells me they're definitely responsible for a large rate of game animal mortality.
What I ultimately am interested in is; where up the Clackamas do you see wildlife? I'll share some of mine.
-Soosap. There seems to be a funnel of sorts in the area between Soosap Peak and Pick Creek. I've seen many a deer in this area, including some trophy blacktail bucks. I see em mainly up on the 4540 road. I did see a bear this year at Helen Lake just to the west. This area unsurprisingly has a lot of predator scat laying about. My last trip to the area to check out some old hiking trails, I passed over 7 piles of predator scat in just over a mile. All of it laying right in the tread.
-Fish Creek. 10 Years ago I came across a herd of elk up on Whale Head that included a coyote in the mix. In 2010 I found a pair of 5-point elk sheds laying on Calico Rd, along with several deer sightings. A friend of mine seen a bear near the Wash Creek confluence a decade ago.
-Ripplebrook. I see more road-killed deer on the short section of highway between Indian Henry bridge and Ripplebrook, than anywhere else up there. There's many swamps and meadows that sustain a number of deer in the area.
No surprise with the shear amount of logging that takes place on the private timberland of the lower NF Clackamas River that I seen a herd of elk here a few years ago near Fall Creek. The brush in this area is unfathomably thick, but there's clear cuts galore.
I've had two different people tell me that the Pansy Basin is a good spot to see deer and elk.
Another guy told me he sees deer and elk out on Indian Ridge in the roaring river drainage.
Anyone else care to share where you see animals in the district?
Last summer, way down in the southern reaches of the district I saw some elk trails traversing the hillside meadows near the headwaters of Shitike Creek. I had a fairly close encounter with a bull as I was making my way through a brushy area. He raised his head up over the brush and saw me. I'm sure he knew I was coming before I saw him. He went the other way, which I'm thankful for.
The only time I have ever seen a cougar was in the district, back sometime in the early 1990's. For a reason I cannot recall I was driving up the Fish Creek road after dark. This signting occurred perhaps a quarter of the way up, at a spot where Fish Creek is not far below the road. We came fast around a corner and there he (I assume because of size) was momentarily frozen in the middle of the road maybe 75 ft. ahead. This cat was dripping wet from the creek and bounded uphill and I never saw it again. He basically was nearly a long as the one-lane paved road was wide.
The year after the road obliteration project in Fish Creek Drainage, I hiked in by myself from the Molalla side along the highest elevation former road west of Skookum Lake. They had laid straw along the former road to get grass established. Heading east from Baty Butte I went up to the high point to where the road began dropping again. Suddenly a herd of maybe 50 elk stood up from their hay bedding and bolted away.
Though these were spectacular sightings, I find it rare to see wildlife up there. Where the skyrocket grows on that highest elevation road mentioned above ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/oregonwildflowers/permalink/483561558506170/ ), there are hummingbirds, as is the case in Pansy Basin Meadows. I have seen bear sign from digging along a rotten log for grubs near the current trail in Pansy Basin. There are otter hiding out at some high-elevation lakes, but I have not seen them consistently enough to know if they are a permanent population. Varied thrush is another bird I have seen or heard frequently.
Pansy Basin was perhaps one of the last places where wolves were heard in Oregon, in the early 1960's just before the lower Pansy Basin was roaded. I have a first-hand account on that, from someone who was up there as a teenager, but most witnesses to that are gone now.
There was a long-time hunting camp not far from the Pansy Basin trailhead, but its abandoned long since.
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