ODFW Wolf Literature Review and Research Recommendations.
Recovery of wolf populations in Oregon raises questions regarding wolf impacts on elk and mule deer populations, livestock depredation, and interspecific competition between wolves and cougars. The OWP directs the department to conduct relevant research to understand the effects of wolf re-establishment and to inform conservation and management actions. The vested interest of two key constituents, hunters and conservationists, also compels the department to investigate the impact of wolves on elk and deer. Information gained from research in the Northern Rocky Mountains provides insight into potential effects of wolf re-establishment in Oregon. However, several factors set Oregon apart from other areas where wolves have been studied. For example, the nearly singular importance of cougar predation on northeastern Oregon elk populations has rarely been documented elsewhere. Furthermore, the role of alternative prey species, differing antlerless harvest levels, and relatively mild climate in northeast Oregon all may influence the relationship between wolves and ungulates.
In early 2013 the department identified research recommendations specific to wolf-ungulate and wolf-predator interactions which included; 1) wolf prey preferences across a variety of ungulate assemblages in northeast Oregon; 2) wolf competition with cougars; and 3) shifts in ungulate habitat utilization. Previous research on elk and cougar in northeastern Oregon will provide comparative data on elk and cougar in some areas. Wolf-cougar interactions may be important because cougar predation on juvenile elk has been identified as the primary limiting factor of recruitment in northeast Oregon. If wolf packs reduce cougar densities or cause cougars to shift distributions and habitat use, wolf predation may be compensatory with cougar predation on elk. Alternatively, if wolves do not affect cougar populations, then wolf predation will be an additive source of mortality for juvenile and adult elk.
In October, 2013 the department initiated a partnership with Oregon State University to provide a Ph. D. student to study wolf-cougar interactions, and wolf predation rates on northeastern Oregon ungulates. Specific objectives of this project are;
- Determine prey selection of wolves in multiple packs in Oregon where prey availability differs among packs.
- Determine effects of presence of wolf pack(s) on population dynamics and habitat use of cougar in the Mt. Emily Wildlife Management Unit.
- Evaluate factors which may influence elk and deer populations and their habitat utilization in a mixed carnivore system with wolves.
The project will be conducted over four years and will focus on capture/collaring wolves and cougars, estimating prey selection of wolves, and evaluating survival, prey selection, and distributions of cougars to presence of wolves. The project is expected to be completed in 2018.