If you had to guess which predator would be the top whitetail consumer in Michigan, you’d probably guess wolves — and to be fair, that’s not a bad guess. However, biologists say that’s not the case.
A study by Wildlife Ecology and Management at Mississippi State University, in association with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, found that coyotes are the top whitetail fawn predators in the western Upper Peninsula, followed by bobcats in second. Wolves came in fourth behind a three-way tie of hunters, unknown predators and undetermined causes.
Student researchers fitted 142 whitetail fawns with GPS collars, which transmitted their locations every 15 minutes. According to the study, 80 of the fawns died during the three-year first phase of the study, with 73 percent of the deaths being attributed to predators.
While researchers discovered two wolf packs in the area, they also discovered a pit where farmers had been dumping dead cattle — a free, easy meal for the wolves.
The Department of Natural Resources claims the wolf population, which it estimates is around 687 in the Upper Peninsula, takes just 6 percent of the deer population, estimated about 270,000. While only 17,000 deer are claimed by wolves, hunters and car accidents combine for 64,000 deer.