A grad student’s work in North-central Washington is continuing to produce insight into which predators gnaw on local deer, and so far, two-leggers’ are ahead of several four-legged varieties.
Last month we highlighted video from a camera Justin Dellinger and crew slung around the neck of a doe and which showed the final stages of a lethal cougar attack last winter, and in a recent tribal newsletter, he talked about what’s killed one fifth of the whitetails and muleys he’s outfitted with various recording devices the past two years.
“So far, we’ve collared 100 deer and only one has been eaten by wolves, five have been eaten by cougars, five were eaten by coyotes, seven were taken by hunters, and one by a black bear and one died of natural causes. So overall survival is really high,” Dellinger reported in the December 2014 issue of the Colville Tribes Fish & Wildlife News.
The University of Washington Ph.D. candidate is half way through a four-year study on ungulates and wolves in the area, and will also look at how the mere presence of wolves affects deer behavior and browsing.
Dellinger’s study includes two areas on the sprawling Colville Reservation that are occupied by the Strawberry and Nc’icn Packs, which at the end of last year had eight members total, and two outside of it, on federal ground in northeast Okanogan County, where no wolves have been officially reported, though there are a pair of citizen reports posted to WDFW’s observation map.
It would be interesting to know what the wolves here are actually eating — elk and moose also occur in these forested highlands — and what the predation rates might be in a similar area of Northeast Washington, where wolf numbers are much higher and good numbers of cougars and bears also exist. Other questions might include, what’s the breakdown of those 100 deer — were they all does, or were any fawns or bucks captured?
Even so, the study provides a glimpse into what’s eating deer at a moment in time and space, key info for tribal biologists.
“This study will show us if wolves, another predator, harvest, or some other cause are having large impacts on our deer numbers,” CTFW wildlife program manager Richard Whitney said in the newsletter. “On the other hand, the study may also show us that our deer are doing great, and deer are surviving very well. I feel that this is just the type of study that tribal members would like to know the result from.”
It’s a safe bet that nontribal hunters will be pretty interested too .