Autumn Larkins, Assistant District Wildlife Biologist
With a fisheries and wildlife degree from Michigan State University Autumn made her way to Oregon in 2002 to work with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). She started in Roseburg in the Wildlife Research Division studying elk, black-tailed deer, black bears and cougars. After Roseburg Autumn came north to Bend where she was the lead Wildlife Technician with a research team that captured and collared more than 800 mule deer to study migration corridors and seasonal distribution.
In 2009 Autumn shifted from research to district management and began a new position in Hines as the Assistant District Wildlife Biologist. District management includes a wide variety of job duties, primarily wildlife population management. “We inventory all the big game species (deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, cougar, bear, sage-grouse, chukar, quail and waterfowl) and to a smaller extent non-game species (coyotes, jack rabbits, migratory birds, etc.) We want to make sure that populations are viable and then determine how many animals can be sustainably harvested. ODFW is responsible for managing the wildlife in Oregon for future generations. If we were not keeping detailed accounts of the changes in population or if we over harvested a certain species then we would fail those future generations. Wildlife population management is necessary to maintain a sustainable resource for all to enjoy.”
Another important aspect of Autumn’s work is communicating with the public and helping people choose a place to hunt and/or what tag to apply for. This communication side of Autumn’s work also involves working with groups and committees outside of ODFW. Trying to fit it all in can be challenging and as Autumn shared: “I am fairly positive that no district wildlife biologist in the state is able to adhere to a forty-hour work week. We do it because we are passionate about the resource.”
One of the groups Autumn is involved with is the Harney County Wildfire Collaborative (HCWC). The HCWC is reducing the potential for and the impact of megafires in Harney County. She’s been involved since it’s inception in 2014. “I think the HCWC has already accomplished a variety of things, first it has helped to rebuild and enhance relationships between all parties (Rangeland Fire Protection Associations, state, federal and county entities, Burns Paiute Tribe, conservation and scientific organizations and the ranching community.) With those strengthened relationships we were able to focus on our fire prevention pilot project in the Pueblo Mountains and now working toward another pilot project in the Stinkingwater. We are also establishing a really effective communication and education effort through regular articles in the Burns Times Herald, presentations to various groups and informative brochures.”
Autumn does work many hours but she loves what she does and where she lives. “I love this area because it is the perfect amount of people and it really has a small-town community vibe. People are kind and thoughtful, it is the type of place where everyone waves at you when you pass on the road and you know that we will help each other out when we need it. I also enjoy Harney County because it has so many wonderful natural areas to easily access. Anything outdoors is what I enjoy! My dog and I like hiking and backpacking in the summer, hunting (especially chukar hunting) in the fall and winter, cross-country skiing and shed hunting in the spring. That is why living in Harney County is the best!”