Weekly Update: Michigan Predator-Prey Research Aids Management Planning

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With more than 6 years of intensive research on white-tailed deer in the Upper Peninsula, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has evidence to enhance the management of deer.  The Upper Peninsula Habitat Work Group is creating updated forest management plans.  The plans will work to establish site-specific forest management to improve winter habitat conditions for white-tailed deer in the Upper Peninsula.

Over the course of the Michigan Predator-Prey Project, researchers have shown that in consecutive, severe and prolonged winters, white-tailed deer have poorer body condition.  The harsh winters resulted in smaller fawns that have lower survival rates. Even in the low snowfall study areas winter severity had strong effects on female deer condition and fawn survival.

The project also determined that adult females selected mixed forest types with high horizontal cover (for hiding fawns) as birthing sites, whereas  predation sites were more likely to be near cropland and with less hiding cover and canopy cover.  This suggests fawns using more open habitats are at a greater mortality risk. However, because there are multiple predator species in the study area, the ability of females to hide fawns may have been reduced, even where adequate cover exists.

This is a sliver of the vast amount of research accumulated from this project and all of its results will aid in the development of specific management plans for each deer yarding complex as well as educational outreach materials to better assist wildlife managers and the public.

The Michigan Predator Prey Project’s overall objective is to understand cause-specific mortality of white-tailed deer fawns. SCI Foundation has been a partner on this project for 7 years and is pleased to see effective management efforts stem from its research. Deer viewing and hunting are an important aspect of the human culture for the Upper Peninsula and the success of this new plan will allow for the sustainability of deer and their winter habitat through the difficult season.

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