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Safari Club International Foundation » Conservation » North America: Predator-Prey Projects

North America: Predator-Prey Projects

Woodland Caribou: Newfoundland

Objective

The continued and rapid decline of Newfoundland's woodland caribou population has biologists concerned about the survival of the species. Caribou numbers have dropped more than 60% in the past eleven years, resulting in reduced annual harvest quotas and even closure of hunting in some herds. In response, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced in February 2008 their investment of $15.3 million towards a five-year predator/prey research and management strategy, representing the largest conservation initiative in the history of woodland caribou.

Support

Safari Club International members voiced their serious concernabout declining caribou herds and in the past year helped initiate a partnership with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to address this issue. SCI Foundation has recently committed $250,000 to the government's predator/prey research and management strategy. Additionally, SCI Foundation has been invited to participate on the project's advisory panel and is currently the only non-governmental organization involved.

Methods & Research

Previous studies have shown that predators are the primary cause of the caribou population decline. In the 1980s and '90s, calf survivorship was between 60-70%. More recent information indicates that less than 10% of collared calves are surviving past one year of age and calf survivorship has dropped to near zero in some areas. Sophisticated radio-telemetry and GPS equipment will be used to determine the causes of mortality and survivorship of caribou adults and calves. GPS collars will also be deployed on predators, including bears, lynx, and coyotes. Behavior and habitat use of both caribou and their predators will also be monitored throughout the experiment. SCI Foundationhas also provided trail cameras to capture images of predators entering into snares designed to pull hair from their body. Genetic analysis will be conducted on the hair to determine the number of individuals in both stages of a mark/recapture study. The cameras can be used to validate the number of individual predators entering the snare.


Elk: Montana
Read the Full Progress Report(PDF)

Objective

From the mid-1960s until 2003, the elk population in the Bitterroot Valley increased. However, in the period between 2008 and 2010 the elk counts in one elk management unit (EMU) were 46-54% below the population objective for the unit. The research team plans to look at this project from multiple angles in an attempt to fully identify factors limiting the elk population. Researchers will be radio-collaring adult cows to investigate individual calf mortalities, the nutritional status, movements, lactation yields, over-winter survival, cause of death, and more will be used to complete the picture of elk productivity, survival and recruitment.

Support

The SCI Foundation contributed $50,000 and has partnered with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP), the University of Montana, and others to investigate the influence of ˵bottom-up˶ (variables such as habitat and food limitations) and ˵top-down˶ (predation or reproductive failures) factors on elk survival and recruitment on two EMUs.

Methods & Research

Between 2000 and 2009 wolves recolonized the area. The addition of wolves into a landscape already occupied by mountain lions and black bears has given rise to major concernsbythe general public that predation (particularly of calves) islikely an important contributing factor to the elk population decline. Previous MFWP research has supported the idea that the influence of predation may be landscape-dependent. The two EMUs included in the case study (East Fork and West Fork) vary in their vegetative structure and predator density. It is this difference in habitat that is believed to have resulted in the disparate predator densities among the units. The East Fork is predominantly open habitat conducive to predator control and the West Fork is primarily forested with a higher density of wolves. One potential benefit of the project may be the development of a model whereby predator and prey populations could be adaptively managed to provide the greatest benefit to the conservation of both predator and prey species, while providing ample opportunities for sportsmen and sportswomen.


White-tailed Deer: Michigan

Read the Full Progress Report(PDF)

Objective

Deer survival is influenced by many factors including disease, predation, weather, and hunter harvest. In the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan, deer survival is especially influenced by winter food supply and cover. Predators also play a role in the survival of deer, particularly fawn survival during the spring and summer. Understanding deer survival and the factors that influence survival throughout the year is vital for proper management of the deer herd.

Support

The SCI Foundation has partnered with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Mississippi State University, and the Michigan Involvement Committee of Safari Club International to better understand the impact of predation on deer, while also determining how predation is influenced by winter weather and deer habitat conditions.

Methods & Research

Learn more at http://fwrc.msstate.edu/carnivore/predatorprey/index.asp


White-tailed Deer: Wisconsin

Objective

Studies designed to help manage the white-tailed deer populationare being done by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. As a predator-prey research project, the objective is to look at the influence of increasing predator populations, and habitat and winter weather conditions on fawn survival. This research shares similar methodology to the Michigan white-tailed deer predator-prey project. Concurrently, a study has begun to better estimate buck recovery rates (number of deer hunted and recovered per year)throughout Wisconsin. The objective of this study is to obtain rigorous direct estimates of buck survival and cause-specific mortality to refine the recovery rate estimates for bucks.

Support

The SCI Foundation is supporting the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources studies.

Methods & Research

Learn more at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/research/whitetaileddeer.html.