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Hunters (and others!) - How to identify Columbian white-tailed deer…


Columbian white-tailed deer with yellow ear tags. Photo credit: K. Meyer

This fall, hunters (and others!) may see Columbian white-tailed deer in areas around Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Cottonwood Island near Ridgefield, WA.


Columbian white-tailed deer are an endangered species and cannot be hunted. They may be present in low-lying areas from the Dibble Point near Rainier south to Sauvie Island in Oregon and from Longview south to Ridgefield NWR in Washington. These areas include Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Game Management Units 504, 506, 530 and 564 and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Hunt Units 10 and 11. Previously, Columbian white-tailed deer were present near Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed Deer, near Cathlamet, Wash., and the associated hunting units 506 and 530 in Washington and 10 in Oregon. Deer hunting is not allowed on either refuge.

Check your state’s big game regulations for additional hunting information.


Columbian white-tailed deer are distinguishable from other deer by their wide, usually brown tails and antlers that typically branch off of the main beam rather than fork.  More subtle differences often (but not always) include more white facial marking around the eyes and above the nose, and smaller ears in relation to the head. The majority of these deer also have numbered white or yellow ear tags and radio collars.


This hunting season marks the first time in many years that there will be a population of Columbian white-tailed deer on the Ridgefield NWR and surrounding area -  part of their historic range from which they were extirpated.

Earlier this year, a total of 37 Columbian white-tailed were translocated from Julia Butler Hansen Refuge to Ridgefield NWR and 12 were translocated from Puget Island to Cottonwood Island. 

The goals of this emergency translocation were to protect the deer and to stabilize an existing population on Cottonwood Island.  If the deer had not been moved, the entire subpopulation was at risk from a failing dike that stands between the refuge and the Columbia River.

For more information on the translocation or Columbian white-tailed deer, please visit the following websites: Julia Butler Hansen Refuge: or Ridgefield NWR:

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