Three Amazing High Desert Inhabitants

J. Hertz

fact

Western Rattlesnake

Western Rattlesnake

Also known as the Great Basin Rattlesnake, these pit vipers have buff-tan coloring and small, oval blotches to blend into their arid surroundings. Small heat-sensing indentations on each side of the snake’s snout detects warm-blooded prey for better striking accuracy in the dark. Source: The Oregon Encyclopedia

Latin name: Crotalus oreganus lutosus

success

Spring Basin Wilderness

Spring Basin Wilderness

Spring Basin Wilderness

With 10,000 acres of undulating terrain, secluded canyons and spectacular vantages of the John Day Country, Spring Basin is magnificent to explore This public treasure, forever protected as Wilderness, offers a profusion of desert wildflowers in the spring and year-round recreational opportunities for hikers, horseback

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voices

Bonnie Olin, 2017 Volunteer of the Year

Bonnie Olin, 2017 Volunteer of the Year

“If you spend enough time in the wild, it will change you. So it was for me in Oregon’s high desert, especially in the Owyhee Canyonlands.” To support ONDA, Bonnie says, is to strive to protect the very values of Oregon’s high desert that are critical to the human experience: quiet and connectedness with nature. “Oregon’s desert,” she says, “broadens your understanding of your relationship to all living things.”

Wilson's Phalaropes

Visit Lake Abert at the right time and you could see up to 100,000 Wilson’s Phalaropes.

J. Hertz

The Flyer

Wilson’s Phalaropes are peach and gray shorebirds that breed in marshlands across the West that embark on a truly amazing journey each year.

But, first, to prepare for their southbound migration, Phalaropes will vortex feed, swimming in a tight circle to bring food to the surface. Phalaropes can double their weight in just a few weeks time by eating almost continuously, a process called hyperphagia. Sometimes, they eat and grow so much in those few weeks that they aren’t able to fly. (We can relate to this feeling.) When they do leave the lake, bound for South America, they will travel roughly 5,000 miles in a single push – thought to be done non-stop – and shed most of the weight they put on.

Pacific Lamprey

The Pacific lamprey is one of the oldest living vertebrates on earth.

Dave Herasimtschuk   Website

The Ancient

You know that saying “as old as the hills?” Well, Pacific lamprey are older.

Paleontologists have found Pacific lamprey fossils as old as 450 million years old, which means that this anadromous species that plies the rivers of Oregon’s high desert today predates dinosaursby more than 200 million years.

In the Columbia River Basin, the Yakama, Umatilla, and Nez Perce tribes place a high value on the Pacific lamprey as a cultural, spiritual, ceremonial, medicinal and subsistence resource since time immemorial, and it’s easy to see why this species has earned so much respect.

Unfortunately, the species that has endured volcanic eruptions and colossal floods has suffered dramatic population declines in the 150 years of the Anthropocene, as hydropower development has blocked fish passage and a variety of human activities, such as water diversions, construction, chemical treatment and mining, have degraded their natural habitat.

Pygmy Short-horned Lizard

You’ll be amazed by how the pygmy short-horned lizard survives the harsh winter in the Northern Great Basin.

Alan St. John

The Freezer

You may have heard these guys referred to – incorrectly – as a horned toad, but the proper name for this tiny lizard that rarely grows to more than seven centimeters in total length is the pygmy short-horned lizard.

And, here’s the crazy part: recent field studies have disclosed that short-horned lizards routinely hibernate by burying in sand just a few centimeters below the surface, freezing solid for months at a time. When the warmth of springtime arrives, the lizards thaw unharmed.

Remarkable for an ectothermic reptile at the Northern Great Basin’s latitude, the pygmy short-horned lizard has been recorded living in the stunted sagebrush and bunchgrass habitats of the region’s mountain summits at nearly 2400m elevation. In these zones that are snowbound for months on end, short-horned lizards spend the majority of the year in hibernation.

Oregon’s high desert remains a stronghold for the sagebrush steppe ecosystem. However, the natural systems found here are also among the most threatened in all of North America. Your vigorous support for policies that protect this unique environment makes all the difference for the 350+ species that live in delicate harmony with the high desert today.
SOURCES

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and the Malheur Cave

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Kim Stafford

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Meet Mac Lacy

ONDA has protected millions of acres of public land throughout Oregon as a result of winning or successfully settling more than 85 percent of our federal actions since 2001. We hope this Q&A (interview conducted August 2018) helps you get to know Mac Lacy, our senior attorney, and to understand the important role he...

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Wild and Scenic Rivers

The Wild and Scenic Rivers of Oregon’s Sagebrush Steppe. America’s rivers face many threats — dams and alteration, excessive use and pollution among them. Thankfully, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which passed in 1968 with bipartisan support, gave people who care about rivers a tool “to preserve rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and...

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High Desert Speaker Series 2018

Eastern Oregon is an incredible place to live, work and explore, with thousands of stories just waiting to be revealed. ONDA’s popular High Desert Speaker Series features knowledgeable and inspiring storytellers who bring the intriguing aspects of this vast region to light. So far in 2018, we’ve dived into the region’s geologic history, the...

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Birding at Malheur

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