Response of ungulates to nutrition and predation risk in changing forest landscapes

Our team is working together to understanding how carnivore and ungulate populations are responding to landscape change in the forested landscapes of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains, with the goal of informing management strategies that are robust to environmental change.

Our goals

This project is focused on how different sources of landscape disturbance, such as fire, timber harvest, and human development, affects nutrition, predation, and competition for ungulates in the forested Northwest. For example, Southern British Columbia once supported the province’s most productive mule deer population, which has declined since the 1970s in spite of increasingly restrictive hunting regulations. At the same time, a number of landscape changes across the region, from BC to eastern WA, northern ID, and western MT, including increasing older forest stands and abundance of white-tailed deer, make it difficult to isolate mechanisms causing this decline.

 

Landscape disturbance may be affecting carnivore-ungulate dynamics through multiple pathways, including via nutrition, apparent competition, and resulting predation risk.

 
 

Our objectives

In this study, we will quantify:

1) how landscape factors including disturbance affect community dynamics (abundance and behavior) among predator and prey species at different temporal and spatial scales, and impacts on deer (mule deer and white-tailed deer) forage and exposure to predation

2) how nutritional quality of habitat, competition, and predation impacts adult deer female fitness (body condition, survival, and reproductive performance) and fawn recruitment, and use these individual responses to understand population-level consequences of landscape change

3) how deer respond at different temporal and spatial scales to the landscape of nutrition, predation risk, and competition, and what role disturbance plays in these processes.

 

The study area includes multiple states and provinces, allowing us to study community dynamics of large mammals across large landscape gradients

 
 

Our team

The project is highly collaborative, with a project team that includes the Gilbert lab, Dr. Dave Ausband’s lab at U Idaho, Dr. Adam Ford's WIRE lab at University of British Columbia – Okanagan, Dr. Chad Bishop’s lab at the University of Montana, along with researchers at WSU and UW. Our partners include the BC Wildlife Federation, wildlife managers from the British Columbia government, Idaho Department of fish and Game, Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and the Okanagan Nation Alliance.