This week, SCI Foundation has been providing an inside look of the Michigan Predator-Prey Project through our “Week in the Field” video series. The project’s overall objective is to understand cause-specific mortality of white-tailed deer fawns. Mortality due to predation is being compared to other causes of mortality across three different snow zones (low, middle, high) in the Upper Peninsula.
The Michigan Predator-Prey Project completed Phase 1 and will complete Phase 2 next year, the low and middle snow zones respectfully. However, over the past 5 years the completed research has already had direct impacts on deer management in the Upper Peninsula. Regional regulations that set deer quotas and numbers of tags issued have been changed due to the data collected on the predator-prey project. This year, quotas were completely eliminated in some areas because of low survival from harsh weather and high levels of predation.
The project has already given biologist a better understanding of the ecosystem. The research has shown that both white-tailed deer and coyotes avoid wolves, which puts them in the same hiding areas at the same time. Consequently, coyotes are eating more fawns than wolves. This also means that hiding cover is an important element for fawn survival. Hiding cover is more often associated with areas of young regenerating forest with smaller trees and more bushes in higher density than other forest areas. These concepts will directly impact upcoming forest management in Michigan.
Information gathered has also helped the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to engage the public and hunters. Before this study, hunters assumed that older does were not producing fawns, that they were “barren,” and therefore could be removed from the population with no impact. However, information gathered during Phase 1 of the project showed that older does were having fawns, thus age was not a factor and older does were important for fawn recruitment. Further, the project gave the Department information it needed to stress the importance of fawn survival and recruitment.
The partnerships created by this project have enhanced the knowledge of predator-prey ecology for all who are involved. Michigan’s public is also well informed and generally pleased with the science coming out of the research. This is a long term project that SCI Foundation is proud to support. This important research allows biologist to better manage multiple predator systems, which is a growing need in many ecosystems worldwide.
If you are interested in all the updates from the 2013-2014 field season check out the project website (http://fwrc.msstate.edu/carnivore/predatorprey/).
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