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DNR Looking at Impact of Predators on Deer Herd
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 11/10/2010

Progress continues on new deer research projects designed to answer questions important to hunters and managers of Wisconsin's white-tailed deer herd. The Department of Natural Resources says two projects set to get underway this winter will look at the causes of death in bucks and fawns including the roles of predators, weather and hunters.

"Many hunters are concerned with our deer population model accuracy and the impacts of predators," said Keith Warnke, big game ecologist for the DNR. "In response to those concerns the department is investing a record amount of its resources into this research."

While an audit by international wildlife experts found the department's deer population modeling system to be sound and one of the best in the country, Warnke said challenges remain that have led to the new research projects.

Hunter harvest is the largest cause of death for bucks. Biologists refer to the portion of bucks killed by hunters each year as the buck recovery rate. Over the course of five years deer will be captured, tagged and monitored to determine their cause of death whether it is due to hunters or natural causes such as wolves, bears, coyotes, bobcats, weather and accidents. The Buck Recovery Rate is a key component of accurate deer population estimates.

This study will measure the role of predation on recruitment which is the number of deer added to the population each year by fawns surviving into the fall. Researchers will gather data on doe pregnancy rates and litter sizes and fawn survival and causes of mortality from birth to the hunting season.

Researchers, with the help of volunteers, will place deer traps in Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, Price, Shawano, Waupaca and Outagamie counties at the close of the deer hunting seasons. Captured deer will be fitted with radio collars and ear tags. In the spring, fawns born to monitored does also will be fitted with radio-telemetry collars.

In addition to the DNR scientists, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Wildlife Ecology, UW Applied Population Laboratory, and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are involved along with the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Safari Club International, Union Sportsmen's Alliance, and Whitetails Unlimited.

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