SCI Foundation recently partnered with Dr. Aaron Wirsing and the University of Washington on a project examining the impacts wolves have on mule deer and white-tailed deer in north-central Washington. Researchers will study how deer behaviorally respond to the presence and absence of wolves, as well as deer survival. The project’s key focus is to understand how re-colonizing gray wolves might impact mule and white-tailed deer.
Gray wolf populations are increasing in North America and they have re-colonized many areas in the Western United States. Most of these areas have not had wolves since humans eliminated them from the landscape in the early to mid-1900s. Re-colonizing wolves are now moving into heavily managed landscapes where logging, livestock ranching, and hunting are present. These landscapes are continually utilized for their natural resources and host large numbers of people. Consequently, wolves are likely to become a nuisance to humans.
For this project, deer movements and survival will be observed year-round. In winter months, deer congregate in low elevations seeking protection from winter weather and a reliable, yet limited food supply, whereas wolves are not tied to a particular area. In summer months, deer are able to roam more widely while wolves remain close to den sites. Therefore, the impact of wolves should differ substantially between summer and winter. A year round understanding of wolf-deer interactions is vital to investigating the predator-prey relationship and ignoring such differences could impact potential wolf management decisions.
Considering all of the litigation on Rocky Mountain wolves and Great Lakes wolves, SCI Foundation believes that Washington wolves could be the next target for litigation. This research will help show the impacts wolves have on game populations and their interactions with humans and livestock. It will guide management actions aimed at managing mule and white-tailed deer and will provide information that may be needed to support the lethal control of the gray wolf population in Washington.
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