Informing Management

We work with wildlife and natural resource agencies to develop strategies for the sustainable use of wildlife.


Investigating white-tailed deer survival

Understanding deer survival, and the factors that influence it throughout the year, is important for proper management of the deer herd. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) deer abundance has been affected by food supply, winter cover, disease, predation, weather, and hunter harvest and varies across the latitudinal gradient. To better understand the relative role these factors play in white-tailed deer recruitment, we simultaneously assessed effects of predation and winter severity and indirectly evaluate the influence of habitat conditions on fawn across three sequential study areas in the UP.

©Todd Kautz/GWCC

Monitoring migrating deer movements

Deer movements and abundance can influence the probability of disease occurrence, such as chronic wasting disease (CWD), contact rates which can affect transmission rate, and geographic extent of an outbreak. We are characterizing important deer space-use and movements to understand include seasonal home ranges, migration, dispersal, transient, and exploratory in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP). This will inform overall deer management program in the UP, as well as allow managers to implement the CWD response plan more effectively, based on deer movement and population ecology.

Black bear research partnership leads to potential hunt

Black bears occurred historically throughout the southcentral and southeastern United States, but due to unregulated harvest and land use change, bear abundance and distribution was markedly reduced. In Missouri, black bear abundance similarly declined and few bears were present in the state by the early 1900s. Growth from Arkansas’s restored black bear population coincided with an increase of black bear sightings in Missouri. In response to these increased sightings, we partnered with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) in 2010 to better understand black bear abundance and distribution throughout Missouri. Using a variety of scientific techniques, we estimated the number of bears statewide and determined the amount of habitat that was potentially suitable.

This research has greatly improved our understanding of black bear populations, habitat use, and ecology in Missouri. Because of the current estimated size of Missouri’s black bear population and its projected growth, the MDC has determined this population can sustain a limited and highly regulated hunting season. If a permit and harvest quota are established by Missouri’s Conservation Commission, the proposed black bear season would occur in October 2021 and represents the first regulated hunt in Missouri. Our collaborative research has provided the scientific foundation from which this harvest was based. We are thrilled to partner with organizations like MDC that provide science-based information to inform species management, including sustainable hunting opportunities for their constituents.

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©Missouri Department of Conservation

©Shannon Finnegan/GWCC

Elk response to timber harvest

Roosevelt elk have important subsistence, sport, economic, and ecological value for residents and non-residents of Alaska. Understanding factors influencing elk distribution and abundance, and how they vary among forest successional stages and management practices, is critical for developing effective forest management strategies which incorporate elk resource requirements. We are examining elk distribution, space use, and resource abundance on Afognak and Raspberry Islands in unharvested and harvested forest stands to identify important resource attributes.

Antler point restrictions in New York

Responding to interests of hunters and legislators, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) implemented antler point restrictions (APRs) to reduce the number of yearling deer harvested in several of the state’s wildlife management units (WMUs). Examining 22 years of deer harvest data, we found APRs reduced the yearling buck harvest as expected. Simultaneously, the proportion of the harvest in multiple older age categories increased. While there was an initial decline in the total size of the buck harvest in APR areas, but the effect was short-lived as hunters adjusted to the new regulations.