2020 wildfires: Impact on hunting, fishing, wildlife

October 2, 2020

Oregon is facing an unprecedented wildfire season and the area where you had planned to hunt, fish or recreate may be impacted. This year more than ever, it’s important to check for access restrictions before heading out.

Learn more about the impact of fire on fish and wildlife

ODFW can’t tell you whether to go or not. We will try to steer you to information about fire closures and access issues, air quality and hunt status so you can make an informed decision about whether to go.

Before you go

Here are some of the things you might want to consider, along with other fire-related updates:

  1. Access to preferred hunting areas
  2. Air quality concerns
  3. Hunt status
  4. Cancellations -- including workshops, meetings and other events
  5. Damage to ODFW properties

Find the latest closure and access information

A reminder that ODFW doesn’t control land access except to our wildlife areas.

ODFW wildlife areas

Currently, all ODFW-owned wildlife areas remain open to hunting. Continue to check this page for updates.

Public lands

Several national and state forests on the west side of the Cascades have closed to public access, including the Mt. Hood, Willamette and Siuslaw national forests, and Clatsop and Tillamook state forests.

Access can change at any time, so before you go check with these public land managers for the latest information:

USDA National Forests
Bureau of Land Management
Oregon State Forests

Private lands

Private timber companies and other landowners may close their lands during fire seasons. These landowners may even pull even their own contractors and workers (e.g. loggers) off their property when fire danger reaches a certain level.

Private landowners may close their properties to ALL access or have restrictions (such as no camping).

Here are some of the most common fire restrictions according to Oregon Department of Forestry:

  • No camping.
  • Campfires may be prohibited or allowed only in approved campgrounds in many areas.
  • Smoking and off-road driving may prohibited in most areas. This also includes motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.
  • Vehicles may need to have either a gallon of water or a fully charged and operational 2½-pound fire extinguisher and shovel (except when travelling on state highways or county roads).
  • ATVs will need to have a charged and operational 2½ pound fire extinguisher.

The Oregon Department of Forestry maintains an ongoing list of fire closures and restrictions on private forestlands.

For more information about fire status and maps of fire boundaries, check these websites:

Check the health impacts of reduced air quality

ODFW can’t tell you whether the air quality is safe for you to go out in. If the land you want to hunt of fish is open, the season is open and you have the proper license and tag, the decision to go is up to your best judgement. You need to consider air quality warnings and your own health status.

The current air quality in many parts of the state ranges from unhealthy to hazardous due to smoke from wildfires. The Oregon Department of Environmental quality maintains an Air Quality Index (AQI) map that shows the current air quality for dozens of locations throughout the state.

The EPA also describes the health impacts of different air quality measures – information you can use to make your hunting or fishing plans.

No hunts are cancelled. Refunds or reinstatement considered after hunting season

ODFW does not close hunting seasons due to elevated fire danger, access or use restrictions, or firefighting activities.

While we don’t close hunting seasons, we will reinstate preference points or refund tags in certain situations due to lost access. Here’s what you need to know about that policy:

  • Point reinstatement/refunds are considered when reasonable public access to the entire hunt area is substantially restricted for the entire hunt period, resulting in a complete loss of hunting opportunity. (Reasonable access means some access to at least a portion of the hunt area during the time period when hunting can occur.)
  • Restrictions against campfires, camping or vehicle/road restrictions (e.g. surface roads only, no OHV traffic) are not considered a loss of hunting opportunity.
  • Hunters may also exchange controlled tags for general seasons tags before their controlled hunt begins, but would be ineligible for any preference point reinstatement. 

The decision to reinstate points or refund tags cannot be made until after the hunting season is over.

If after a hunt period is over, ODFW determines that reasonable access was unavailable during the entire season, we’ll contact tag holders with their options. These may include exchange for a general season tag and reinstatement of preference points +1, or refund of tag fees and reinstatement of points +1 (hunting licenses are not refunded).

Bighorn sheep, Rocky Mtn goat and pronghorn tags may also be revalidated for later dates, a different area, or the following season in some situations.

No fishing seasons are cancelled

ODFW does not close fishing seasons due to elevated fire danger, access or use restrictions, or firefighting activities.

Cancellations

There are no cancellations to announce at this time, but check back frequently.

Damage to ODFW properties

Several fish hatcheries damaged, evacuated

Several fish hatcheries have been or were evacuated due to nearby wildfires, these including Rock Creek, Clackamas, McKenzie, Leaburg, Minto, Marion Forks, Salmon River and Klamath hatcheries.

No lives were lost among ODFW hatchery staff and their families who had to evacuate. Unfortunately, critical infrastructure was lost and fish were also lost, with Rock Creek Hatchery on the North Umpqua River sustaining the most severe damage followed by Klamath, Leaburg, and Minto.

In some cases, staff were able to transfer some adult fish to other facilities, or fish were released. A few other ODFW facilities are at Level 1 or 2 evacuation status, including the Clackamas regional office, South Santiam/Foster, Dexter, Roaring River, Sandy and Cole Rivers. Staff are moving equipment offsite and have developed contingency plans for fish holding or release if moved to Level 3.

ODFW staff will assess damage to hatcheries and fish loss when it is safe to do so. Additional information will be posted as it is available.

Learn more about the impact of wildfires on ODFW hatcheries.

Explore Related Articles

How to hunt big game

Learning to hunt is an adventure that can last a lifetime, and ODFW Hunter Education is a great way to...

Buying a license or permit

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife owns or manages nearly 200,000 acres of land set aside for wildlife use...

How to hunt big game

The four options below are designed for self-motivated students with good reading and comprehension skills - just choose one. All four course...