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Predator study deserves recognition

June 3, 2011
By Tim Kobasic - Outdoors writer , Daily Press

ESCANABA - There has been an important project, ongoing 24/7 for the last three years, that has not received high recognition by the media.

A study to help determine the factual reasons why there is such a high fawn mortality in the Upper Peninsula continues, this year finishing the first of three phases. Each phase is designed to provide a depiction of the varying conditions whitetail deer must encounter through their lives in their environment.

The U.P. has a distinction for having a low, medium and high snowfall zone, each increasing the further north you go. This study, being conducted through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and Mississippi State University College of Forest Resources, will impact the future of deer management globally.

Sponsorship of the study is primarily provided through the MDNR, the Safari Club International Foundation, the Safari Club International - Michigan Involvement Committee and Mississippi State University. Safari Club has previously provided continued sponsorship involving the U.P. moose herd, funding annual population studies as well as the initial transfer projects that brought moose here from Ontario, Canada.

Locally, conservation organizations have also committed funding from their projects budgets to help out the scientists working the program.

Having a unique mixture of topography and forest mix, the Upper Peninsula is also home to a variety of wildlife that includes black bears, coyotes, gray wolves, and bobcats as predators of fawns.

Fact Box

Tim Kobasic is outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet Saturday mornings.

The goals of the study are to achieve five objectives:

Estimate survival and sources of mortality for fawns and does.

Estimate fawn mortality due to specific predators.

Estimate home range size, movements, and habitats used by deer and predators.

Estimate abundance of deer, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, and wolves in the study area.

Improve understanding of predator-prey interactions to enhance wildlife management.

Once achieved, the outcomes should blueprint how managers should:

Understand the importance of black bears, coyotes, gray wolves, and bobcats as predators of fawns.

Understand how winter weather and habitat affect deer condition and reproduction.

Update knowledge on what percent of does become pregnant each year.

Understand deer density and doe-to-buck ratios in the area.

Provide information useful to manage deer and predators.

This last point is critical as we are evolving in working to control populations of predators, especially coyotes. Annual predator hunts are expanding across the U.P. each winter and are seeing increased takes of coyote and bobcat. However, it appears that numbers taken are small in comparison to current populations that many feel exist in different areas of the Peninsula.

Previous data collected regarding all of these points, while considered state of the art, were limited to a study area that consisted of a one square mile enclosure at the MDNR Cusino Research Station near Shingleton in Alger County.

Much of the information that came out of Cusino was compiled by the research personnel that covered the work there. Report 3209 - The Ecology and Management of White-tailed Deer in Michigan, written by John J. Ozoga, Robert V. Doepker and Mark S. Sargent, has been considered the go-to source for basic information for over two decades. The results of the new study will now become the most contemporary source available - an enhancement of what we already know.

Fortunately, everyone can access the study with the latest information - as it happens in real-time.

Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County (WUDC) is one local sponsor of the Predator-Prey-Habitat Study. The organization recently held a sponsors banquet, bringing together its board of directors and outside contributors. Members of the study team gave a presentation, updating those in attendance with what they have discovered to date.

The study team not only outlined most recent results, they provided a demonstration of technology and equipment being utilized in the project. They also provided an accounting of their time utilization, displaying an incredible amount of commitment and energy to do the job right.

I continue to hear a lot of rhetoric by individuals - some in positions considered to be authoritative - who base their philosophy regarding wildlife, habitat and management policy on far less information, or the sentiment of others. Though In many situations, it is a case where one man's opinion can become a reference of fact for others.

If you want to know the real details of what is happening regarding the Predators, Weather, Habitat and White-tailed Deer Fawn Survival in (the U.P. of) Michigan, you can do so via the Internet web-site:

Once there, every possible detail is available regarding the ongoing study, as information regarding what you can do to participate as a volunteer and learn first hand the work that goes into real science and compiling real facts.



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