The five-year Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator study is entering its third winter of capturing and collaring adult deer, bobcats and coyotes.
While some of the previously collared deer have been killed by hunters or died from many other causes, there are about 320 adult collared deer (bucks and does), 29 bobcats, and 52 coyotes within the two study areas.
This past spring 104 fawns were captured and collared.
A crew working in two study areas, Grant and western Iowa counties, and eastern Iowa and western Dane counties, is beginning the deer capture winter with 21 crew members. Dan Storm, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources research scientist in Rhinelander, is directing the portion of the study.
“Those collared adult deer taken by hunters during the nine-day gun deer season were all contacted, provided data from their deer carcass, and returned the collars containing the GPS units to the DNR,” Storm said. “Hunters received information of where their animals have been during the study period.”
Researchers continue to compliment the hunters, landowners (now more than 300), and general public in assisting, volunteering, and showing a positive interest in the research.
After next winter’s capture season (the fourth), data will begin being analyzed and adult deer will continue to be monitored for an extended period, as will the coyotes and bobcats.
While general data and findings are being reported regularly and posted on the DNR website, some interesting anecdotal happenings are of interest and sometimes perplexing.
Storm said several deer left the study area and moved very long distances, then backtracked either all the way or part way to where they began their journeys.
In looking at maps created by GPS data, one deer created a path of departure and then backtracked as though it were following the same curves and loops created when it ventured out.
“How do these deer navigate these routes?” Storm asked. “Are they using visual clues, scents, or something else to follow the path back, in one case right where they started the journey?”
Of particular interest to Storm are the bucks’ movements during the rut.
Several more local movements out of the study areas include one deer ending up in Yellowstone Lake Wildlife Area in Lafayette County and another one relocating to the Middleton area.
Several deer have crossed the Wisconsin River, as have some of the predators.
All of the collars from deer that have died or been taken by hunters have been returned. The units strapped on the necks of adult deer cost $1,400 each and weigh less than a pound.
As the researchers hoped, hunters don’t seem to be avoiding or targeting collared deer during hunting seasons, and many report not noticing the collar until the deer is down.
It is legal during season to take a collared deer, coyote or bobcat into possession.
Storm estimates presentations, publications and reporting and analyzing the study data could go on for several years after the five-year period.
Jerry Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.