UI Researchers' Study on Predator Deprivation Earns National Award

Monday, September 23 2013

MOSCOW, Idaho — A study performed by several University of Idaho alumni on the response of mule deer to the reduction of coyotes and mountain lions in Southeastern Idaho is receiving national attention.

Edward O. (Oz) Garton, professor emeritus at the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources, helped design the study and analyze data that earned The Wildlife Society’s 2013 Monograph Award. The award will be given at the organization’s annual conference in October.

One monograph is selected each year from a large field of research.

The study, funded primarily by Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife, began as a way of addressing the decline of mule deer in the Northwest. Mark Hurley, who earned his master’s degree at UI, led the study with James Unsworth, who did his undergraduate work and earned his doctoral degree at UI under Garton. The research team selected all hunting units south of Interstate 84 from Twin Falls to the Montana border. Six different treatments were used involving depredation hunts and removal of mountain lions and coyotes.

“That was the big thing with the hunters,” Garton said. “They feel like predators are competing with them for deer.”

Transmitters were placed on nearly 1,000 deer monitored throughout the five-year study. Garton and the team created a method to correct for error in headcounts done while flying over herds. Weather and rodents were also tracked.

The conclusion was that although the survival rate of fawns and young does could be increased with a decline in predators, it did not affect the long-term population of the mule deer.

“Too many other factors outweighed the impact of predators,” Garton said.

The research team also included Debra Montgomery, who earned two master’s degrees at UI.

“It was awesome,” Garton said. “The study was loaded with a bunch of people who got their degrees here.”

The Wildlife Society has honored quality research documentation since 1940 with a variety of awards given for scientific writing that is of high quality, skilled presentation and is research or management oriented.
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Media Contact: Jodi Walker, College of Natural Resources, (208) 885-2737, jwalker@uidaho.edu