With its diverse landscape and abundant wildlife, Oregon is a top vacation destination all year. Here, conservation specialist Phillip Elden reports on one aspect people don’t often take into consideration when visiting for the first time: the weather.
Oregon is a fickle state, says Phillip Elden, with wildly varying temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns. In summer, for instance, Medford in the southern part of the state enjoys highs in the low 90-degree range. Much of the coast rarely jumps above the 75 to 80-degree mark. Throughout the state, low temps can drop by 20 to 30 degrees throughout the year.
Winter in Oregon is very cold with average temperatures dipping into the 20s and lots of snow in many regions. Phillip Elden notes that the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge can get as much as 60 inches of snow in a single season; Portland doesn’t see snow that often but averages nearly 6 inches of rain in the cooler months. And rain can be an all-day event although hardly ever a washout.
Phillip Elden explains that precipitation also varies wildly by regions. A few coastal areas, which experience more humidity than inland regions, can get soaked with more than 200 inches of rain each year. The desert region gets nowhere near that. The Alvord Desert is bone dry with 5 inches of rain on an average year.
According to Phillip Elden, the diverse landscape and morphing climate makes the perfect environment for wildlife. As a conservation advocate, Elden says it is up to humans to keep the land in as great a shape as possible so that the climate can do its job of keeping the flora and fauna alive and thriving. He says Oregon is a wonderful place to visit and the weather, although unpredictable at times, is part of the reason to enjoy this coastal gem.
While Zoos get a bad reputation, many are a final destination for animals who could not fend for themselves in the wild, says conservationist Phillip Elden. Here, the Oregon native shares information on a few of the state’s finest zoological parks.
The Oregon Zoo, according to Phillip Elden, works tirelessly to promote preservation of the world’s most at-risk animals. In addition to its exhibits of local and global wildlife and habitats, the zoo operates a number of wildlife conservation projects on site, including the California condor breeding facility. It is currently working with organizations throughout the state to help protect Western pond turtle hatchlings.
Phillip Elden also enjoys the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Here, children can learn about jellyfish, sea turtles, coastal mammals, and more. The aquarium also hosts dozens of beach cleanup days throughout the year. Education programs are available for children of all ages on everything from anemones to plankton. For adventurous kids and their families, the aquarium also offers the opportunity to sleep under the tunnels and enjoy more personal attention from staff.
It’s still cold but the spring and summer vacation seasons are fast approaching. That’s left many wondering how the rampant wildfires of 2017 might affect their 2018 vacation plans. Phillip Elden, a conservationist and natural landscape and wildlife expert, answers a few questions about common landmarks in relation to the fires.
Q: What is the status of Mount Jefferson?
Phillip Elden: The Whitewater fire was one of the first to trigger panic throughout the state. It torched more than 11,500 acres of prime hiking and backpacking trails. The fire, which was started by lightning, has not caused any long-term damage to Jefferson Park, though Mount Jefferson remains closed until late spring to early summer.
Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are abundant just off Oregon’s 363 miles of coastline, says Phillip Elden. However, these underwater wonders rarely draw public interest. Here, Elden opens up about some of the largest mammals in the state.
Q: How many grey whales live off the coast of Oregon?
Phillip Elden: Throughout the summer and fall, Oregon boasts a population of around 200 resident grey whales. However, during migrations – winter and spring – more than 18,000 of these massive creatures crowd Oregon’s waterways. Gray whales can grow up to 50 feet long and can weigh more than 80,000 pounds. Whale sightings are reported year-round but peak between Christmas and New Year, with an estimated 50 sightings each day during Whale Watch Week.
Phillip Elden has spent a lifetime studying local wildlife in his native Oregon and has always held a cautious fascination with snakes. Here, the conservationist answers a few common questions pertaining to these slithery serpents.
Q: What are the most common species of snake in Oregon?
Phillip Elden: There are more than a dozen of poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes throughout the state. The black racer is perhaps one of the most abundant and is found in a variety of habitats from meadows to sagebrush flats. Racers typically avoid high mountain tops and forests in favor of rocky slopes and dense low-lying shrubbery.
Q: What do snakes eat?
Phillip Elden: The majority of snakes eat insects, amphibians, and even small mammals. The ringneck snake, which thrives in moist microhabitats in both woodland and rocky areas, makes its primary diet out of earthworms, frogs, small lizards, and salamanders. Larger varieties, such as the common king snake, may also dine on birds and turtles. Some of the more aggressive serpents will go after gophers, scorpions, and rabbits. Snakes are not only predators; they are prey for mid-sized mammals such as foxes, coyotes, and badgers.
Cougars are native to Oregon and an important part of the local environment. However, they are known as fierce and territorial creatures, says Phillip Elden. It is only through education, awareness, and diligence that humans can safely and humanely cohabitate with these large cat-like creatures.
Q: How many cougars currently live in Oregon?
Phillip Elden: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that there is greater than 5,000 cougars living in the state. They are most common in the Blue Mountains, Cascade Mountains, and the northeastern part of the state.
Nearly two decades after the deadline, Oregon submitted a revised – and rejected – coastal pollution plan. NOAA and EPA have now threatened to withhold federal funds if not adequately amended by summer. Phillip Elden explains:
Q: What is the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Program?
Phillip Elden: This is a federal program required in 29 states. It essentially says these states and territories must more closely regulate nonpoint pollution sources. Nonpoint pollution refers to pollutants from things such as agricultural runoff or wind-born debris.
Q: What actions may the government take against noncompliant states?
Phillip Elden: According to federal law, noncompliant states such as Oregon can lose 30% of funds they receive from the Coastal Zone Management Act and Clean Water Act. Currently, Oregon receives approximately $4 million from these sources. Many environmental groups, including Northwest Environmental Advocates, believe that reducing funds does nothing but perpetuate the problem and have lobbied the government to postpone financial withdrawal. However, many of these same groups acknowledge that the threat could jumpstart state environmental agency leaders into action. Continue reading