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Author Topic: wolves and cervid behavior  (Read 327 times)

Offline yakimanoob

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wolves and cervid behavior
« on: October 23, 2017, 12:49:08 PM »
Hey folks,

Just had an interesting question pop into my head.  We talk a lot about how deer and elk respond to the presence of wolves, and in a different context we talk a lot about how deer and elk respond to hunter pressure. 

Is there a fundamental difference between how their behavior changes between those two conditions?  Do the elk and deer move into little pockets of thick timber in response to wolves just like they do in response to hunters?  Or is their response different?

Just curious what y'all have observed. 

Offline DOUBLELUNG

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Re: wolves and cervid behavior
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2017, 02:18:35 PM »
I have one area in Wyoming that I hunted extensively in the 1990s before wolves arrived, and in the early-mid 2000s after wolves arrived.  It is a wide, flat timbered drainage bottom with scattered sagebrush patches, as you go up in elevation the slopes get steeper and steeper, with less timber and more open, as well as the addition of aspen and willow patches.  At the divide, you get into alternating grassy avalanche slide chutes and strips of spruce/fir, and bowls and basins - classic high country buck summer range.

Pre-wolves, the flat bottom was a nursery area for mule deer, you could hunt it for days and see hundreds of does and fawns, nary a buck other than yearlings.  I talked to quite a few hunters over the years who had stayed low and were very frustrated in this supposed "trophy area" - seeing literally tons of deer and often shooting a 2-point after several days of hunting.  To find the bachelor groups of bucks, you needed to get into the high and steep stuff, and then probably 80% or better of the deer are mature bucks.  They were extremely demographically segregated.  The elk, on the other hand, were all in the timbered bottom (late September rifle hunt for both species, elk in rut), and semi-easy to find with all the bulls screaming and carrying on.  The elk tended to be in large groups, sometimes hundreds.

Fast forward to 2002, and that area was within the territory of a pack with 18 members.  At least 90% of the deer, of all age and demographic classes, had shifted into the steepest high elevation areas, mainly the avalanche chutes.  The few deer at low elevations were along the highway, whereas it was rare to see deer there pre-wolves.  It was clear their distribution was greatly affected by the presence of wolves.  The elk distribution was less affected, most were still in the timbered bottom, although some were now in the high steep where we never saw them pre-wolf.  The elk behavior was radically changed, though - group sizes were small, 1-10; the bulls not bugling at all during the day, and rarely at night.   
As long as we have the habitat, we can argue forever about who gets to kill what and when.  No habitat = no game.

Offline yakimanoob

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Re: wolves and cervid behavior
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2017, 02:29:35 PM »
That makes sense; I didn't think about how hunter pressure would mostly affect the legal shooters, while wolves would move the entire herd around. 

 

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