Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Comes Together Around White-Tailed Deer

The Michigan Predator-Prey Project has been SCI Foundation’s flagship North American conservation project for the last ten years. The Michigan DNR and Mississippi State University Carnivore Ecology Laboratory research team set out to discover why the Upper Peninsula’s white-tailed deer population did not recover after a large decline following 2 consecutive severe winters.  This work has resulted in a collaborative landscape-level effort to improve deer wintering habitat. Today, the project is a model predator-prey study and the team is still busy conducting research.

Fawn with Radiocollar

Over the past decade, this project has examined several factors that could be limiting the deer population including winter weather, habitat, and predation.  Importantly, the research is geared toward not only understanding the potential role of each of these factors, but also how these factors interact with each other.  This approach has led to a better understanding of this complex system and has prompted efforts aimed at conserving the entire ecosystem.

Releasing a Male Fawn

Considerable research has been conducted on nearly every aspect of white-tailed deer ecology.  This past winter, an additional 123 deer were captured. The teams also performed kill site investigations, black bear den checks and prepared hair snares and camera traps for estimating bobcat abundance.  In total, 408 animals of 5 species including 239 whited-tailed deer have been captured to date.  The project’s final phase will build on the objectives of earlier phases, such as capturing and collaring deer and predators.

The SCI Michigan Involvement Committee, whose members were invited to observe the winter fieldwork, continues to be closely engaged with this project.  906 Outdoors – Discovering featured our work, and in February Michigan Out-Of-Doors devoted a half-hour episode to the U.P. and joined researchers as they conducted bear den surveys.  Many of the landowner meetings and various stages of this evolving research also have been featured in local news media.

GPS Collard Black Bear

Those who rely on the U.P.’s natural resources and shape their culture around white-tailed deer have been receptive to this project.  Local stakeholders such as natural resource professionals, wildlife experts, sportsmen, private landowners, and the logging industry have been eager to help.  In fact, the logging industry has voluntarily adopted selective logging practices that leave vital tree species in place in deer wintering yards.

Deer Telemetry

Those who rely on the U.P.’s natural resources and shape their culture around white-tailed deer have been receptive to this project.  Local stakeholders such as natural resource professionals, wildlife experts, sportsmen, private landowners, and the logging industry have been eager to help.  In fact, the logging industry has voluntarily adopted selective logging practices that leave vital tree species in place in deer wintering yards.

Deer Trap Sign

Currently the state of Michigan is relying on the results of this project to formulate its management plans for white-tailed deer.  Armed with more than a dozen studies, papers, and publications, Michigan now has the best science available to inform management.  SCI Foundation is committed to supporting the Michigan Predator-Prey Project in one of the most unique white-tailed deer habitats in the North America.  Stay tuned as this project continues and the results spread to other northern states!

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Read the full Michigan Predator-Prey story here or visit the First for Wildlife blog for more project updates. For more information, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, like and subscribe on YouTube, or visit our website for more SCI Foundation news!