Wirsing, other researchers look at how deer responding to return of wolves

An adult gray wolf is caught on a wildlife camera in eastern Washington in 2015.University of Washington

As gray wolves continue to make a strong comeback in Washington state, their presence is impacting other animals, particularly the ones these large carnivores target as prey. So how do targets like deer respond to this increased threat?

That’s what Aaron Wirsing, associate professor with the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, and other researchers from a variety of institutions looked at for a study recently published in Oecologia.

The researchers monitored the behavior and activity of wolves and deer in Washington for three years and found that mule deer exposed to wolves, in particular, are changing their behavior to spend more time away from roads, at higher elevations and in rockier landscapes.

“In any particular ecosystem, if you have a predator returning, prey are unlikely to all respond similarly,” Wirsing told UW News. “We show that wolves don’t have a uniform effect on different deer species.”

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