Environment
12:40 pm
Mon April 2, 2012

Study: Role of coyotes on deer population in the UP

In the last few years, illegal wolf kills in the Upper Peninsula have been going up as more sportsman become convinced that wolves are harming the deer population.

The antipathy toward wolves might change now that the species is no longer federally protected, but it also might change as more research is done on other predators in the UP.

Howard Meyerson of the Grand Rapid Press, reports on deer predation research being conducted in Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Mississippi State University students.

So far, the research is showing a somewhat surprising result: that coyotes are a top predator of fawns in parts of the western UP.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

...what researchers found this past winter, the third year of a western U.P. deer mortality study, is that coyotes were the No. 1 predator followed by bobcats. Wolves came in fourth after a three-way tie among hunters, unknown predators and undetermined causes.

“I was somewhat surprised to see coyotes play as large a role in fawn predation as they did...,” said Jerry Belant, an associate professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at Mississippi State University.

Researchers say predation by coyotes, bobcats, wolves, and people play a role in deer survival, but weather and habitat can play a bigger role.

The Mississippi State researchers write that "historically, deer abundance in the UP has been affected by the intensity of timber harvesting and winter severity."

The Michigan DNR says the deer population in the UP is around 270,000. And officials estimate that winter weather and humans can kill more deer than wolves.

Here are the numbers they have posted:

  • ~ 64,000 deaths - humans (hunting and car collisions)
  • ~ 17,000 - 29,000 deaths - wolves
  • ~ 35,000 deaths - mild winter weather
  • ~ 70,000 deaths  - moderate winter weather
  • ~ 105,000 deaths - severe winter weather

Once more research is done, the MDNR might be able to add more predation numbers from species other than wolves.