Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Do Wolves Affect White-Tailed Buck Harvest
In Northeastern Minnesota?
Our conclusions must be viewed in the total context of Minnesota's deer hunting
regulations. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources adjusts deer harvesting
levels for a sustainable yield based on simulation modeling of deer density
(Lenarz 1997). Therefore, the effect of major mortality factors such as wolves
and weather are automatically considered in setting harvest regulations. A wolf-inhabited
area would have more restrictive regulations, and thus, a lower allowable harvest
than an area free of wolves. In fact, continued restrictions against taking
antlerless deer in the wolf-census area are in themselves a form of compensation
for the combination of wolves, weather, and poorer quality of the area for deer.
Given these considerations, our findings tend to confirm the suitability of
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource's harvest regulations for a sustainable
yield in our study area.
If deer-hunting regulations are well adjusted to the wolf-deer-weather complex
in the study area, what does this situation imply for other areas in wolf
range where wolves may be less influential such as parts of northcentral Minnesota
(Fuller 1989)? Throughout much of Minnesota's current wolf range (Fuller et
al. 1992, Berg and Benson 1999), deer harvest has increased even as wolves
were recolonizing new areas (Route 1998). This implies that during the expansion
of the wolf's range, wolves were not impacting deer numbers enough to have
prevented liberalizing harvest regulations.
How long recolonized wolf populations can thrive without affecting harvests
will depend at least partly on whether harvest regulations are conservative
or liberal. Fuller (1989) provided a theoretical approximation of this relationship.
If harvest regulations are liberal enough, a point might be reached where
wolves would strongly reduce deer harvest by humans (Mech 1971, 1984; Fuller
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