Weekly Update: Michigan Predator-Prey Project

The Michigan Predator-Prey Project recently finished its third summer season in the Phase II study area. During the spring and summer of 2015, researchers captured and radio collared 32 white-tailed deer fawns (19 male, 13 female) to study their survival. Sixteen of the fawns captured were associated with radio collared adult females that had been fitted with vaginal implant transmitters (VIT). These VITs enabled researchers to determine the timing and location of the birth site. Researchers captured the remaining 16 fawns opportunistically while conducting other research activities.

So far this year, fawn survival is typical of an average year. Researchers recorded 16 mortalities of fawns born in May–June 2015. Mortalities were attributed to black bear (5), bobcat (3), coyote (2), unidentified predators (5), and one vehicle collision. Apparent fawn survival from birth to September 1st was 44% as compared to 27% in 2013 and 65% in 2014. Although nearly half of the fawns are still alive, overall there are much fewer fawns on the landscape compared with previous years because of the large loss of the adult doe population in winters of 2013 (54% survival) and 2014 (38% survival).


The project also continued investigating the relative rates at which different predators kill fawns by placing GPS collars on predators and then identifying clusters of locations where the predator spent significant time. This summer the project investigated clusters of GPS locations of 11 black bears, 5 bobcats, 6 coyotes, 4 wolves and identified 30 fawn predations at 715 clusters visited. The greatest percentage of fawn predations were found at wolf clusters (7.0%), followed by coyote (4.8%), bobcat (4.4%), and black bear (1.7%). Abundance estimates of each carnivore can be used to bring context to these relative rates of predation. Preliminary results suggest there are relatively few wolves and bobcats on the landscape compared to the number of black bear and coyotes.

This research is crucial to understanding the predator-prey relationship in the Upper Peninsula and will allow the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to improve their management of white-tailed deer populations during winter.

Partners on this project include Mississippi State University, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, SCI’s Michigan Involvement Committee, Safari Club International Foundation and its Hunter Legacy Fund.

Previous progress reports and links to technical publications from this work can be viewed on the project’s website: http://www.fwrc.msstate.edu/carnivore/predatorprey/index.asp

Or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MIpredprey

Twice a week, SCI Foundation informs readers about conservation initiatives happening worldwide and updates them on SCI Foundation’s news, projects and events. Tuesdays are dedicated to an Issue of the Week and Thursday’s Weekly Updates will provide an inside look into research and our other science-based conservation efforts. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more SCI Foundation news.

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