THE FOLLOWING IS A WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff will start capturing deer in northeast Washington in early December and fit them with radio-collars as part of an ongoing predator-prey study that began two years ago.
The study, scheduled to run at least five years, will help to assess the impact of wolves, cougars, and other predators on deer and elk by monitoring the interactions of all species.
This winter, researchers hope to capture at least 30 white-tailed deer in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties – primarily on public land, but also on private land where WDFW has secured landowner permission. Capture techniques include trapping animals using bait, entangling them in drop nets, and darting them with immobilization drugs from the ground.
The study plan also calls for radio-collaring wolves, cougars, bobcats, and coyotes in Stevens, Pend Oreille, and Okanogan counties. Some wolves are already radio-collared in those areas, but researchers want to maintain collars on at least two wolves in each of the packs within the study area. Cougar capture work with the use of dogs will get underway in late November, followed by bobcat and coyote captures using box traps and foothold traps after Jan. 1.
Collaborating researchers from the University of Washington (UW) will join WDFW research scientists and field biologists to monitor radio-collared ungulates and track their movements, distribution, habitat use, diet, productivity and survival. Cougars will be monitored to learn about changes in social behavior, population dynamics, prey selection and movements in areas where wolves also occur.
State wildlife managers ask that hunters who harvest a radio-collared deer or elk – and residents who encounter a dead radio-collared animal – contact WDFW’s Eastern Region office in Spokane Valley (509-892-1001), so researchers can recover the collar and collect biological samples from the carcasses.
Funding for the five-year study comes from a 2015 state legislative appropriation, federal Pittman-Robertson funds, and state wildlife funds.The UW also secured National Science Foundation grant funds for part of the project.