Date of Award
Master of Science
Predators must optimize and adapt foraging behavior for multiple spatial scales to take advantage of abundant and vulnerable prey. Wolves (Canis lupus) live in human-modified landscapes where anthropogenic disturbances and landscape alterations can influence predator-prey dynamics. In southern boreal ecosystems, wolves rely heavily on seasonally abundant white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawns, which are highly susceptible to predation in their first weeks of life. My objective was to understand how anthropogenic disturbances—specifically timber harvest areas and linear features—and cover types influence where wolves hunt and kill fawns. During 2016–2019, I fit wolves with 20-min-fix-interval Global Positioning System (GPS) collars and searched clusters of GPS-locations to identify where wolves killed fawns. I identified 217 wolf-killed fawns from 12 wolves. I then created 4 models to predict where wolves hunted and killed deer fawns, whether wolves killed fawns in similar places they hunted fawns, and visibility characteristics at kill sites. Wolves hunted and killed fawns near linear features during the early fawning season. Wolves selected young timber harvest areas to hunt and kill fawns but overall hunted farther from these areas. Horizontal visibility (or concealment cover) was lower at kill sites than random sites, which indicated that wolves likely rely on scent to find fawns. By combining wolf movement data, locations where wolves killed fawns, and characteristics of those kill sites, I provide novel insight into how and where wolves forage for fawns in the southern boreal forest.
Homkes, Austin T., "Wolf Selection of Human-Modified Linear Features and Cover Types When Hunting and Killing White-Tailed Deer Fawns" (2021). All NMU Master's Theses. 664.