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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 was in decline, and initiated 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.
Over the past decade, this project has discovered that a collaborative multi-stakeholder effort was needed to prevent ecosystem collapse in the UP due to decades of land management that degraded deer habitat. Considerable research has been conducted on nearly every aspect of white-tailed deer ecology. This journey from a once singular focus on deer survival has evolved into a movement in the U.P. to conserve an entire ecosystem.
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 bobcats. 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 have been featured in local news as well.
Capturing predators remains a challenge, but trapping and collaring bears, wolves, bobcats, and coyotes will continue. As fawns are born, researchers will capture fawns and investigate mortality sites throughout the spring. Work that is to be completed in 2017 includes: a snowshoe hare pellet survey, ruffed grouse drumming survey, carnivore trapping and collaring, fawn capture and radio-collaring.
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.
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-tail habitats in the North America. Stay tuned as this project continues into the future and the results spread to other northern states!
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!