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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thought it was worth reporting one more time how Pumas(synonyms include: Mountain lions/Cougars/Catamounts/Painters) have come to fear the sound of our human voices.................Despite their physical prowess--- Pumas punch in between 100-200 poounds, are able to leap from a a standing position anywhere between 20 to 40 feet, attain speeding car velocity of up to 50 mph and are able to crush horse and wolf skulls with their long canine teeth------U of Santa Cruz(California) researchers have found that as soon as the big cats hear our voices, they stop whatever they are doing and high tail it away from us as quickly as possible..........."The human presence in such a situation has far-reaching consequences".......... "A previous study found that Santa Cruz pumas living near residential areas killed 36 percent more deer than those in less populated places"......... "The new finding could explain why: if the cats are scared away from their kills before they finish feeding, they may be taking more prey to compensate".................. "And fewer deer could mean more plants go uneaten, (a good thing in some instances)according to Chris Darimont, a professor of conservation science at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, who was not involved in the study"................ "Thus, fear of humans may alter the entire food chain"

Pumas React to Humans like Prey

Even though we do not hunt them for food, the big cats have reason to fear us

Humans kill large carnivores—a category of animals that includes wolves, bears, lions, tigers and pumas—at more than nine times their mortality rate in the wild. Although they may not be our prey in the traditional sense, new research shows that some of the world’s biggest carnivores are responding to humans in a way that resembles how prey animals react to predators. Biologists at the Santa Cruz Puma Project, an ongoing research effort in the mountains of California’s central coast, report that even the formidable puma, or mountain lion, shows its fearful side when people are around.
In a recent study, the researchers followed 17 mountain lions outfitted with GPS collars to the animals’ deer kill sites. Once the cats naturally left the scene between feedings, ecologist Justine A. Smith, now at the University of California, Berkeley, and her team trained motion-activated cameras on the prey carcasses. On the animals’ return, the cameras triggered nearby speakers, which broadcast recordings of either frogs croaking or humans conversing.

The pumas almost always fled immediately on hearing the human voices, and many never returned to resume feeding or took a long time to do so. But they only rarely stopped eating or fled when they heard the frogs. They also spent less than half as much time feeding during the 24 hours after first hearing human chatter, compared with hearing the frogs, the team reported this year in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The human presence in such a situation has far-reaching consequences. A previous study found that Santa Cruz pumas living near residential areas killed 36 percent more deer than those in less populated places. The new finding could explain why: if the cats are scared away from their kills before they finish feeding, they may be taking more prey to compensate. And fewer deer could mean more plants go uneaten, according to Chris Darimont, a professor of conservation science at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, who was not involved in the study. Thus, fear of humans may alter the entire food chain.

Female Puma and her kitten dine on deer kill

“Humans are the most significant source of mortality for pumas in this population even though [the cats are] not [legally] hunted” for food or sport, Smith says. Many are hunted illegally, struck by vehicles or legally killed by governmental agencies as a means of protecting livestock. “So they have good reason to be fearful of us,” she adds. Darimont predicts other large carnivores would show similar responses because humans have effectively become the planet’s apex predators—even if we often do not eat what we kill. “I expect this to be common because the human predator preys on just about every medium-to-large vertebrate on the planet,” he says. “And at very high rates.”

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"The iconic woodland caribou across North America face increasing predation pressures from wolves"...................This "pressure" is due to the Boreal Forest being cut and fragmented for oil and gas wells, lumbering operations and human recreation land clearing...........This fractionalization of habitat invites Moose and Deer, as well as additional Wolves to migrate into Caribou territory resulting in Wolves dining more readily on the easier to kill Caribou..........Up till now, the knee-jerk answer from Canadian Government Officials has been to kill more Wolves................... "But a new Canadian government policy is evaluating reducing the invasive moose numbers that are propping up the wolf population"............Candidly, I think both the killing of Wolves and Moose to temporarilly prop up Caribou populations is a temporary band-aid and further avoids the real problem from being addressed---UPGRADE THE BOREAL FOREST SO THAT CARIBOU ONCE AGAIN HAVE THICK HORIZONTAL AND VERTICAL TANGLED HABITAT THAT MAKES THEM SAFER FROM WOLF PREDATION.................As my mom used to say, "the easy way often ends up being the hard way"...............Easy to kill Wolves and Moose..................but in the long run, Caribou will conitnue to free-fall in numbers unless we take the steps to protect large connected forest reserves and connected "corridors" between those reserves...............Let us take the way that will create long term persistance for all three species, not just one or the other,,,,,,,,,,,,or none

An alternative to wolf control to save endangered caribou

Researchers study the effectiveness of a new government strategy to stabilize the caribou population by focusing on the reduction of invasive moose populations, indirectly lowering the density of the caribou's primary predator

What happens when invasive and native species are eaten by the same predator? If the invasive species is abundant, the native species can go extinct because predator numbers are propped up by the invading species. This process is called "apparent competition" because on the surface it "appears" that the invading and native prey directly compete with each other, but really the shared predator links the two prey.

Mountain caribou in British Columbia, Canada, observed during a population census.
Credit: Robert Serrouya CC BY 4.0

Apparent competition is an increasing problem, causing endangerment and extinction of native prey as abundant species colonize new areas in the wake of human-caused change to the environment. This is exactly what is happening to the iconic woodland caribou across North America. Prey like moose and white-tailed deer are expanding in numbers and range because of logging and climate change, which in turn increases predator numbers (e.g. wolves). With all these additional predators on the landscape, more caribou become by-catch, driving some herds to extinction.
Wolf Pack attacking a Moose

A short-term solution would be to kill wolves but this can be seen as just a band aid, and is no longer politically acceptable in many jurisdictions. As a more ultimate solution, Serrouya and colleagues used a new government policy and treated it as an experiment, to maximize learning. The new policy was to reduce moose numbers to levels that existed prior to widescale logging, with an adjacent reference area where moose were not reduced. The results of this research are published in an article titled "Experimental moose reduction lowers wolf density and stops decline of endangered caribou," and is published today in the peer reviewed and open access journal PeerJ.

Wolves will take the easier to kill Caribou over the tougher Moose

Following the reduction of moose using sport hunting, wolf number numbers declined, with wolf dispersal rates 2.5 × greater than the reference area, meaning that dispersal was the process leading to fewer wolves. Caribou annual survival increased from 0.78 to 0.88 for the Columbia North herd, located in the moose reduction area, but survival declined in the reference area (Wells Gray). The Columbia North herd probably stabilized as a result of the moose reduction, and has been stable for 14 years (2003 -- 2017). By expanding their comparison across western Canada and the lower 48 states, they found that a separate herd subjected to another moose reduction was also stable, whereas at least 15 other herds not subjected to moose reductions are continuing to decline.
he results obtained by Serrouya and colleagues are similar to other studies that used more controversial approaches. For example, in Alberta, 841 wolves were removed in the Little Smoky caribou herd over 7 years, but results were as good or better using the less controversial approach of reducing invasive prey (moose). But, population stability is insufficient to achieve recovery goals for caribou, which require population growth. This conclusion suggests that several limiting factors and management levers must be addressed simultaneously to achieve population growth for caribou. These levers include habitat protection, reducing invading prey, and if needed, short-term and focused predator removal.
.Journal Reference:
  1. Serrouya et al. Experimental moose reduction lowers wolf density and stops decline of endangered caribou.Peer J, 2017 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.3736


Habitat Restoration and Protecting Caribou Populations

Habitat loss is – by far – the most common reason species become at risk of extinction. There are many ways to combat this threat, including protecting key areas from human activities, and restoring habitat that has been removed or otherwise damaged.

Protected Boreal Forest with thick horizontal and vertical tangle the key for Caribou health

Habitat restoration must play a large role in recovery efforts for boreal caribou. Many populations are declining where human activities like forest harvesting, agriculture, settlement, oil sands and roads have damaged or destroyed their habitat. Boreal caribou are currently listed as Threatened under the federal Species At Risk Act and under most provincial and territorial species at risk legislation where this animal resides.

A discussion paper on this topic by WCS Canada’s President, Justina Ray, was commissioned by Environment Canada as federal recovery efforts grapple with the challenge of habitat restoration. The paper was posted earlier this month onEnvironment Canada’s website:

Some type of balance of protected Boreal and that used
for energy must be put in place to keep Caribou alive and well

Dr. Ray's paper discuses and defines boreal caribou habitat restoration in the context of both national recovery efforts and insights from the rapidly advancing field of ecological restoration, and proposes criteria for what constitutes restored habitat. Currently, there is no consensus on the definition of “restored” habitat, despite a commitment by countries at the 2010 meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity to restore 15% of degraded ecosystems by 2020.

Boreal caribou are a prime example of the difficulty of bringing back habitat that has been lost; decades are needed to restore mature forest habitats, and the extent of habitat loss that has already occurred adds a daunting dimension to the task. On top of these issues, conservation efforts are struggling against a legacy of inadequate attention to reclamation thus far.

A key conclusion of the paper is that effective restoration for boreal caribou will require site-based restoration activities to be linked with range-scale land use planning and monitoring. It will be exceedingly difficult to recover boreal caribou populations once they are in decline and disturbance levels are high. Restoring ecosystems is typically a highly expensive process that requires substantially more effort than prevention of ecological damage in the first place.
To read the paper in its entirety: click here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Feral hogs are running from Hurricane Harvey's flood waters in East Texas and coming into Houston to find dry ground...............These semi-wild pigs are descendants of domestic pigs that settlers let roam free in their woodlots to fatten up on fall acorns, beechnuts and other mast.............. Many of these domestic "porkies" wandered far and wide and farmers could not retrieve them................Finding easy food in the woods, they multiplied like rabbits with only Wolves, Black Bears and Pumas capable of killing adults,,,,,,,,,,,,,Even with Bears and Coyotes opportunistically killing a % of newborn piglets, the Hogs are prolific breeders and easily keep replacing lost pigs and expanding their population and range................"Sows begin breeding at 6 to 8 months of age and have two litters of four to eight piglets—a dozen is not unheard of—every 12 to 15 months during a life span of 4 to 8 years".................... "Even porcine populations reduced by 70 percent return to full strength within two or three years".............."It is important to note that Hogs, wild or otherwise, are not native to the United States"........ "Christopher Columbus introduced them to the Caribbean and Hernando De Soto brought them to Florida and Texas"


A Plague of Pigs in Texas

Now numbering in the millions, these shockingly destructive and invasive wild hogs wreak havoc across the southern United States

Smithsonian Magazine 2011

Wild hogs are “opportunistic omnivores,” meaning they’ll eat most anything. Using their extra-long snouts, flattened and strengthened on the end by a plate of cartilage, they can root as deep as three feet. They’ll devour or destroy whole fields—of sorghum, rice, wheat, soybeans, potatoes, melons and other fruits, nuts, grass and hay. Farmers planting corn have discovered that the hogs go methodically down the rows during the night, extracting seeds one by one.
Hogs erode the soil and muddy streams and other water sources, possibly causing fish kills. They disrupt native vegetation and make it easier for invasive plants to take hold. The hogs claim any food set out for livestock, and occasionally eat the livestock as well, especially lambs, kids and calves. They also eat such wildlife as deer and quail and feast on the eggs of endangered sea turtles.
wild hogs were barely more than a curiosity in the Lone Star State until the 1980s. It’s only since then that the population has exploded, and not entirely because of the animals’ intelligence, adaptability and fertility. Hunters found them challenging prey, so wild hog populations were nurtured on ranches that sold hunting leases; some captured hogs were released in other parts of the state. Game ranchers set out feed to attract deer, but wild hogs pilfered it, growing more fecund. Finally, improved animal husbandry reduced disease among domestic pigs, thereby reducing the incidence among wild hogs.

Few purebred Eurasian wild boars are left today, but they have hybridized with feral domestic hogs and continue to spread. All are interchangeably called wild or feral hogs, pigs or boars; in this context, “boar” can refer to a male or female. (Technically, “feral” refers to animals that can be traced back to escaped domestic pigs, while the more all-encompassing “wild” refers to any non-domestic animals.) Escaped domestic hogs adapt to the wild in just months, and within a couple of generations they transform into scary-looking beasts as mean as can be.
The difference between domestic and wild hogs is a matter of genetics, experience and environment. The animals are “plastic in their physical and behavioral makeup,” says wild hog expert John Mayer of the Savannah River National Laboratory in South Carolina. Most domestic pigs have sparse coats, but descendants of escapees grow thick bristly hair in cold environments. Dark-skinned pigs are more likely than pale ones to survive in the wild and pass along their genes. Wild hogs develop curved “tusks” as long as seven inches that are actually teeth (which are cut from domestics when they’re born). The two teeth on top are called whetters or grinders, and the two on the bottom are called cutters; continual grinding keeps the latter deadly sharp. Males that reach sexual maturity develop “shields” of dense tissue on their shoulders that grow harder and thicker (up to two inches) with age; these protect them during fights.
Wild hogs are rarely as big as pen-bound domestics; they average 150 to 200 pounds as adults, although a few reach more than 400 pounds. Well-fed pigs develop large, wide skulls; those with a limited diet, as in the wild, grow smaller, narrower skulls with longer snouts useful for rooting. Wild pigs have poor eyesight but good hearing and an acute sense of smell; they can detect odors up to seven miles away or 25 feet underground. They can run 30 miles an hour in bursts.

Adult males are solitary, keeping to themselves except when they breed or feed from a common source. Females travel in groups, called sounders, usually of 2 to 20 but up to 50 individuals, including one or more sows, their piglets and maybe a few adoptees. Since the only thing (besides food) they cannot do without is water, they make their homes in bottomlands near rivers, creeks, lakes or ponds. They prefer areas of dense vegetation where they can hide and find shade. Because they have no sweat glands, they wallow in mudholes during the hot months; this not only cools them off but also coats them with mud that keeps insects and the worst of the sun’s rays off their bodies. They are mostly nocturnal, one more reason they’re difficult to hunt.
Frequently Asked Questions-Wild Pigs

1. How many they average per litter and how often they can breed in a year?
The wild pig is the most prolific large mammal on the face of the Earth—but they are not “born pregnant”! The average is between 5 and 6 pigs per litter. Sows have approximately 1.5 litters per year. Are more litters per year and larger litter sizes possible? Absolutely yes! However, I am using long-term averages, not what can occur under ideal conditions –which usually unsustainable over the long haul. Young females do not typically have their first litter until they are 13+ months of age, even though they can be sexually mature at 6 to 8 months of age or even earlier in some cases.
2. What is the average lifespan of a wild pig?
Mortality rates vary greatly-impacting the very young and the very old primarily. Predation is not a big issue once they reach about 10 to 15 pounds. Hunting can be a significant mortality factor in some regions but generally is not enough to offset population growth. Depending on a variety of these factors, plus disease, vehicle collisions etc., average lifespan is probably between 4 and 8 years of age. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service surveyed landowners in 2011 to determine an estimate of how many wild pigs are removed from the Texas landscape each year. We estimated 753,646 wild pigs were removed by landowner-initiated efforts in 2010.

3. How heavy can they grow to?
Weights depend on genetic background and food availability. Generally, males can reach larger weights than females but this is not a hard and fast rule. Average weights vary but run 200 pounds for adult males and 175 pounds for adult females. A 300 pound feral hog is a large pig. The unusually large weights of 500 pounds + occasionally reported in the media are very rare.
4. What is the power of their bite? What other animal can it be likened to in that regard?
They have extremely strong jaws to crack open hard-shelled nuts such as hickory nuts and pecans. As they predate upon or scavenge animal carcasses, they can easily break bones and often consume the entire carcass, often leaving little if any sign behind.
5. How strong is their sense of smell?
The wild pig’s sense of smell is well developed (much better than both their eyesight and hearing) and they rely strongly on it to detect danger and search out food. They are capable of sensing some odors 5-7 miles away and may be able to detect odors as much as 25 feet underground! Appealing to this tremendous sense of smell is often essentially as fermented or scented baits can provide additional attraction to make them more vulnerable to trapping.
6. What are their eating habits, and how much they eat in a day?
Wild pigs are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they feed on plant and animal matter in addition to being able to play the role of a scavenger. They are largely indiscriminant in their feeding habits and eat both vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Approximately 85% to 90% of their diet is believed to be composed of vegetation (including crops where available) and 10% animal matter. Small pigs may eat approximately 5% of their body weight daily; larger pigs an estimated 3 % of body weight.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Kansas is one of the "bread basket" States that has been missing its historic assembly of large, trophic carnivores, including Gray Wolves, Grizzlies, Black Bears and Pumas...............This hopefully is about to change, as over the past few years some transient Black Bears from neighboring Colorado and Missouri have been prospecting their way into the "jayhawk state", with biologists feeling that a breeding Black Bear population is on the verge of re-establishment............Note, that In the mid-19th century, Kansas still had significant herds of Bison, whitetailed deer, elk, Pronghorns, Pumas, Black Bears, Gray wolves and perhaps a few Grizzly Bears................. By the end of the 19th century, indiscriminate hunting and changes in the natural habitat had resulted in the near extinction of all the large mammals except for deer...............

Wild black bear population grows in Kansas

August 17, 2017

 — Wildlife experts say black bears wandering into Kansas from Missouri and Oklahoma will likely become established residents of the state within the next decade.
Two bears in southeast Kansas and one along the Colorado border were documented as recently as two summers ago. For most of the past 15 years, bears only have been seen in extreme southwest Kansas, the Wichita Eagle reported .

"We have reproducing populations getting closer and closer," said Matt Peek, furbearer biologist at the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. "If the habitat is right when they come into Kansas, I think we have the opportunity for black bears to become established."
Experts said the possibility of Kansas having a permanent population of bears could cause safety problems. Neither Oklahoma nor Missouri have reported bear attacks recently, but experts are advising residents in those states on how to protect pets and livestock from the wild animal.
"They're kind of like really big raccoons," Peek said. "They have a way of getting into all kinds of things, but especially trash and crops."

Peek said that grizzly and black bears called Kansas home before civilization. He said most of the state's black bears were limited to areas alongside water and were gone from most of Kansas by the late 1870s after being hunted out.
Wildlife officials said bears still deserve respect and that most people appreciate having them around because they're native animals returning after being gone for the majority of the 20th century.


Doomed for Extinction?

The last wild buffalo in Kansas was believed to have been killed at Point-of-the-Rocks, west of Dodge
 City, in 1879.

When Dr. Brewster Higley wrote his well-known song, "Home On The Range," near Smith Center, Kansas, in 1873, he included the words "...where the deer and the antelope play..." These words were true for the early days of our state, but the plowing of the land, introduction of great herds of cattle, and excessive hunting resulted in the disappearance of deer and antelope from the boundaries of the state. Both were considered to be extinct, or nearly extinct, in Kansas at the start of the century. 

At one time the antelope ranged over western Kansas as far east as the west edge of the Flint Hills

The mighty grizzly bear once ranged over the western two-thirds of what is now Kansas

The black bear was reported to have lived throughout the state until 1880, and there are accurate accounts of its living in the gypsum caves of Comanche County

Only one hundred years ago several thousand elk, or wapiti, could be seen in a single herd in Kansas. This huge deer, which once roamed throughout the state, was still reported as being common in western Kansas as late as 1875

Pioneer legends abound with stories of the wolf packs that followed the migrating herds of buffalo across the prairies. The howling of the wolf sent chills up the spine of many a lonely traveler of the early 1800's

At one time the mountain lion, also known as the puma or cougar, occurred throughout what is now Kansas. Because its principal food was the deer, and, because it was hunted intensively, the mountain lion, like the wolf, disappeared from anong our native fauna

Sunday, August 27, 2017

For those of you who have known me for any length of time, you know the kind of smile that came onto my face after I finsihed reading CURE YOURSELF OF TREE BLINDNESS(below),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,As the author infers and I wholeheartedly endorse and subcribe to, "If all us us during our first 12 years of school took a course every year on the trees, flowers, shrubs, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish and insects that shared our neighborhood with us, I daresay that there would be no environmental crisis of any kind"...................When you become intimate with another living organism, whether that be a human or non human entity, you grow respectul of it, exhibiting tenderness, compassion, concern and regard for their welfare...................The fact that at least 99% of the 7 billion people alive today on our great Planet Earth do not know the names(let alone the life stories) of the trees and other plants and animals that inhabit their immediate environs, makes it plain as day to me why we so casually extinguish, exterminate, poison and despoil our environment------------We have lost our once held intimacy with our "natural world neighbors", becoming more and more detached from other life forms over the 150,000 years of human existence....... Buying into a blueprint that allows us to rationalize that the natural world is to be utilized in any way we please, regardless of the consequences of that use...............So few of us have caught "biophilia", the ove of nature that the eminent naturalist E.O. Wilson believes is intrinsic to our makeup.................Seems to me that Biophilia is something that we all have to learn and re-learn daily, monthly and yearly,,,,,,,,,,Seems spot on to me that "CURING OURSELVES OF TREE BLINDNESS" would be an excellent first step in beginning to regain biophilia, which would then hasten us to seek to optimize biodiversity and the health of all living organisms, inculding ourselves

Cure Yourself of Tree Blindness

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Gray and Eastern(Red) Wolves and their "dance partners"----- Deer, Elk, Moose, Caribou and Bison---- have successfully thrived together for over 10,000 years, since the last Ice Age..........Sometimes the Wolves win and sometimes their hoofed prey dance partners win in their beautifully orchestrated predator and prey "tango"...........The bottom line is that the ultimate animal predator, us humans, are the only species that is capable of exterminating any one of the predator/prey species I have just mentioned.............Left to their own devices in unaltered, healthy habitat, Wolves, Deer, Elk, Caribou, Moose and Bison will pendulum up and down in rough equilibrium,,,,,,,,,,,,,,The wild cards in this up and down population flow (for those mentioned predator and prey) is the impact of severe weather(heavy snow Winters, drought, etc) and human hunting.................In Wisconsin, the past four Winters have been relatively mild,,,,,,,,,,,Combined with Wildlife Mangers limiting the number of antlerless(females)deer permits and Endangered Species protection being re-instated for Great Lakes Wolves, there are a record 480,000 deer in the 18 county Wisconsin management zone along with an all-time high wolf population of 925..................And all of this dual population growth going on with the other deer predators in the State(Black Bears, Coyotes and Bobcats) annually killing 54,000 deer along with the wolves dining on another 13,000 deer........The bottom line of all of this is simple-----DO NOT BELIEVE THE FAKE NEWS REPORTS ABOUT PREDATORS DECIMATING THEIR PREY POPULATIONS.......Deer need Wolves chasing them(and killing a % of them) to be the beautifully alert and fleet-of -foot animals they are......Otherwise, we will have something other than deer in our woodlands---- "bloated cows"

 Hunters and severe 

winters — not wolves —

 key to Wisconsin's 

deer number

August 23, 2017 Paul Smith

When it comes to gray wolves and white-tailed deer, there are enough
 deep-seated beliefs to fill the Dells of the Wisconsin River.
Some of them, like many of the acts in the nearby town, are based 
more on fiction than fact.—
Here's one: The wolves are killing all the deer in northern Wisconsin.
It's not a new refrain, but it's one I continue to hear from some of my
 hunting colleagues each year.

Great Lakes Wolves tend to be Admixes of Eastern
and Gray Wolves

Now in late summer 2017, as bucks begin to lose their velvet and
 wolf pups start to venture out more with adults, conditions are 
ripe to discuss trends in both species.
In a word, both are "up."
There are 480,273 deer in the 18-county northern forest
 management zone, according to the 2017 pre-hunt population
 estimate from the Department of Natural Resources.
The 2017 number represents an 18% year-over-year increase.
The population of wolves, as you may know, is at an all-time 
high in Wisconsin. The DNR in June reported a record high of
 at least 925 wolves, most of which are in northern Wisconsin.
The latest wolf report represents a 6% increase from 2015-'16 
and a 24% rise from 2014-'15.

White-tail Deer

So the two iconic wildlife species have been increasing in
 number across Wisconsin's Northwoods.
Why? And how can it be? If wolves are at an all-time high - 
and if they "eat all the deer" - shouldn't the deer herd at 
least be falling?
A look at the data and management related to each 
species can be illuminating.
The wolf population has increased largely due to a 
December 2014 federal judge's decision that placed
 the western Great Lakes population under protections 
of the Endangered Species Act. The ruling has
prevented state officials from holding public hunting 
and trapping seasons or using other lethal means to
 manage the species.

The millenia-old "dance of Wolves and White-tails

Deer have been increasing partly due to protection, 
too. For the last several years, the number of antlerless
 deer permits has been significantly reduced in northern 
units. Some counties have allowed zero.
With more female deer allowed to live and reproduce, 
the population assumed an upward trajectory.
Mother Nature is the other primary factor allowing deer
 herd growth in the north. The last three years have
 been marked by "soft" winters, including the fourth 
(2015-'16) and sixth (2016-'17) mildest on record since
 1960, according to the DNR's Winter Severity Index.
In contrast, two very rough winters took a toll on the 
deer herd in 2011-'12 and 2012-'13. The 2011-'12 
winter was the third most severe on record; the following
 year was especially tough on deer since winter conditions 
lasted into May.

The milder winters have been reflected in recent years 
in higher fawn-doe ratios and a higher proportion of 
yearling bucks with forked antlers, according to DNR 
big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang.
Another factor - habitat - likely has improved
 marginally in northern Wisconsin in recent years
 due to some changes in forestry practices. But it's 
harder to quantify and likely takes longer to show
 its effects on the deer herd.
I find the status of both species particularly interesting 
now, as wolf numbers have climbed to a record high.
Wolves obviously eat deer. According to most experts,
 an adult wolf will consume the equivalent of 20 
adult-sized deer annually.

But when compared to other sources of deer mortality 
in Wisconsin, wolves rank down the list.
I ran the numbers and trends past David Mech, 
senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological 
Survey in St. Paul, Minn. Mech has studied wolves 
for 59 years and is considered an expert on the 
species and its effect on plant and animal communities.
"Under these current Wisconsin regulations and 
conditions, wolves are apparently not a competitor,
 or aren't really having that much of an impact 
(on deer)," Mech said.
The leading causes of deer mortality in the state, 
as Wisconsin wildlife managers have long said, 
are human hunters and severe winters.
A 2009 DNR document ranked the deer kill in
 Wisconsin's northern and central forest regions
 this way: 122,000 deer killed by hunters 
(bow and gun), about 50,000 due to winter
stress (the range could vary widely), 
33,000 to black bears, 16,000 to coyotes, 
13,000 to motor vehicles, 13,000 to wolves 
and 6,000 to bobcats.

The trends over the last few years in northern 
Wisconsin are clear.

When I was in Bayfield and Sawyer counties in 
May for the Governors Fishing Opener, I counted 
72 deer on an evening drive from Cable to Hayward.
The conditions reminded me of the plethora of deer
 I used to see in the area in the mid to late 1990s. 
Wolves are up in number. Deer are too.
Humans and Mother Nature have far more control
 over deer populations than wolves ever will.
I'm hoping my hunting buddies read this. But as 
always, I'll be happy to tell them in person.
Pass it along to your friends, too.
As we move forward with management plans
 on both species, it's important to bring as many
 facts to the debate as possible.