Difference in perspectives
There has been an interesting difference in perspectives in the letters to the editor from Rory Mattson and Nancy Warren Ewen about wolves in the U.P. This seems to boil down to the impact wolves are having on the deer population. The 2019 Upper Peninsula deer population estimates 270,000 deer. The question becomes how do deer die? Doing a little research on this question indicates that ~22,000 deer, or 8%, were killed by hunters in 2019. There are about 21,000 car-deer accidents (reported), or 7.7% , many of which likely resulted in a dead deer (a cost of over $42 million to U.P. insurance companies and, eventually, passed along to you in the form of premium increases and rate hikes; the highest car-deer accident rate is in Delta County). That is a total of ~43,000 deer killed by humans, or 15.7%. Now if there are approximately 700 wolves in the U.P. and they kill, on average 20 deer each, that would be 14,000 deer, or 5%. Add to that winter kill, which can be an estimated ~ 35,000 deaths during mild winter conditions, ~ 70,000 deaths during moderate winter conditions, and ~ 105,000 deaths during severe winter weather. Interesting that one severe winter could kill 48,000 more deer than cars, hunters, and wolves combined. This year was a very mild winter, so we can assume the deer herd only decreased by about the same amount as attributed to hunting and wolves, which leaves a couple hundred thousand to go on and reproduce. Though this figure doesn’t factor in deer mortality from disease, old age, and other predators. Predator-prey research in the U.P. indicates the major predator (after humans) are coyotes, then bobcats and bear, followed by wolves. This research also revealed that coyotes kill more deer than bear, bobcats, and wolves combined! Non-human predators are going after the young, old, diseased and infirmed. They are essentially culling the herd so it remains healthy. I’m starting to wonder here if by vilifying the wolf, we are not barking up the wrong tree.
Now, on the other hand, if we want a healthy forest and forest regeneration, which supports our logging industry and forestry related jobs in the U.P., an over abundance of deer results in over browsing our forests and a decrease in diversity of plant and animal life. Plus, our farming community (and those of you trying to raise a garden), realize first hand the cost of crop damage from deer. Also, anyone who has had a car-deer collision knows the results of too many deer on our roads. Keeping our deer herd in check and healthy may prove to be a better tree to bark up. (Statics & information : MI DNR, MPS, MSU and Mississippi State University)