Sixty years of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) yarding in a Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)–deer system




Canis lupus, deer yard, migration, Odocoileus virginianus, predation, predator-prey relations, White-tailed Deer, wolf, yarding


This article synthesizes information from over a six-decade period of studies of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) use of a winter yard and subject to Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) predation in northeastern Minnesota. It also adds spring migration data from 35 adult female deer and fawns studied there during 1998, 1999, 2001, 2014, and 2017. Twenty-nine of these deer migrated in spring a mean distance of 29 km (SE = 4), a maximum distance of 78 km, and at a mean bearing of 83° (SE = 12; range 21–348). These findings are similar to those from 49 deer (both sexes) from the same yard studied during 1974–1984, that migrated a mean distance of 25 km (SE = 1.8) and a mean bearing of 77° ± 4 SE. Between the two periods, the wolf population fluctuated considerably, the winter range of deer in the area where these deer spent summer greatly diminished, and both derechos and fires disturbed the habitat. This study attests to the selective advantage of the migratory tradition of deer in this yard.

Author Biographies

L. David Mech, U.S. Geological Survey

Senior Research Scientist

Shannon M. Barber-Meyer, U.S. Geological Survey

Wildlife Research Biologist