A 3-decade dearth of deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in a wolf (Canis lupus)-dominated ecosystem

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2006
Authors:Nelson, ME, Mech, LD
Journal:American Midland Naturalist
Date Published:2006
Keywords:Canis lupus

Some 30 y after wolves (Canis lupus) were implicated in decimating wintering white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in a 3000-km2 area of northeastern Minnesota, wintering deer still have not recolonized the area. From 1976 to 2004, we aerially radio-tracked wolves there during 250 h and recorded 2 deer (in 1985 and 2000) killed or eaten by wolves during February and March. We observed no other deer or deer sign, but regularly observed deer, deer sign and wolf-killed deer in adjacent wolf-pack territories. Although habitat in the study area generally remains poor, some regeneration has taken place, and deer have increased adjacent to the area. However, wolf numbers have persisted by preying on moose (Alces alces). We could detect no reason other than wolf predation and deer migration traditions for why wintering deer have not recolonized the area.

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