DNR staff team up with partners and volunteers to launch Southwest Wisconsin Deer and Predator Research Project

MADISON Fall 2016 marks the beginning of what state wildlife officials say will be the most comprehensive deer research project ever undertaken in Wisconsin — the Southwest Wisconsin Deer and Predator Research Project.

This groundbreaking research, which stems from Gov. Scott Walker’s commitment to reevaluate chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin, will look at factors like predation, habitat conditions, hunter harvest and chronic wasting disease to measure impacts on deer survival and deer populations in southern Wisconsin.

This project will include exciting volunteer opportunities — people looking to learn more about the project and volunteer opportunities and interact with Department of Natural Resources staff involved are encouraged to attend an open house Thursday, Sept. 29 from 6-8 p.m. at the Dodgeville DNR service Center, 1500 North Johns St., Dodgeville.

For those unable to attend the public meeting who are looking to learn more about the project, join DNR staff for a live chat Thursday, Sept. 22 at noon. Search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword “chat” to submit questions and view responses from DNR experts. Here, you can also view past chats and sign up to receive email notifications.

Deer Study

DNR staff will team up with volunteers and partner organizations with a goal of capturing 200 adult deer annually over four years in two distinct study areas in portions of Dane, Iowa and Grant counties.

Deer study areas
Deer study areas

“GPS tracking collars will allow us to determine daily and seasonal movement patterns, cause of death, and other important information that will help us assess how the deer use the landscape, what influences growth or declines of the population, and other factors that will help inform management decisions in the future,” said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist. “Landowners and hunters especially should find this information to be very interesting. We’re counting on their assistance to make this project successful.”

The eastern most study area is found within the area of highest CWD prevalence, while the western most study area has a much lower rate.

“We hope to learn more about how CWD impacts deer survival and how different factors like habitat, predation, and harvest may combine with CWD to impact deer populations,” said Dan Storm, DNR deer research scientist. “We chose two study areas with different CWD infection rates, which will help us understand the relative impacts of various factors on deer populations.”

Predator Study

In another “first ever” for fall 2016, DNR staff will have the opportunity to actively monitor coyote and bobcat populations within the same study area. GPS collars will be placed on these predators to provide a more definitive look at how predator abundance and distribution may impact deer populations.

“Tracking collars will help us understand how bobcat and coyote populations are doing in Southwest Wisconsin, how many there are, and what role they play in the deer populations.” said Nathan Roberts, DNR carnivore and furbearer research scientist. “We are especially excited to work closely with trappers, hunters, and landowners to better understand these important questions.”

For more information regarding this groundbreaking project and how to become involved, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “deer research.”

To receive email updates regarding deer research in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled “subscribe for updates for DNR topics,” then follow the prompts and select the “white-tailed deer research” list.