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Monday, January 29 • 1:20pm - 1:40pm
CARNIVORES: Where Wolves Kill White-tailed Deer Fawns

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AUTHORS. Austin T. Homkes, Northern Michigan University; Steve K. Windels, Voyageurs National Park; John G. Bruggink, Northern Michigan University; Thomas D. Gable, University of Minnesota

ABSTRACT. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawns are important summer prey for wolves (Canis lupus) in southern boreal ecosystems. Fawn parturition is synchronized from late May through early June and wolves must adapt their foraging strategies rapidly to use the abundant new prey source. Although wolves rely heavily on deer fawns during the summer, how wolves hunt fawns is unknown because of the difficulty of observing predation events or finding evidence of wolf-killed fawns. We fitted wolves with GPS collars during spring 2016 and 2017 in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota and visited clusters of GPS locations to identify fawn kill sites. We determined the vegetative cover type and estimated percent cover using cover boards at 56 kill sites and 68 random locations during summers of 2016 and 2017. Discriminant function analysis revealed significant differences between cover characteristics (cover type and percent visibility) at kill sites and random locations (Wilks’ ? =0.820 Chi-square=22.824 df=8, p=0.004). Additionally, the maximum visible distance was significantly less at kill sites than at random locations (5.97±3.3 m SD vs 8.67±3.6 m SD). Generally, these results provide valuable insight into habitat use by white-tailed deer fawns and summer hunting behavior of wolves in a southern boreal ecosystem. Though descriptive in nature, our results also allow us to test the hypothesis that wolves preferentially hunt in cover types where fawns kills are most likely to occur.

Monday January 29, 2018 1:20pm - 1:40pm CST