The USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center uses Very High Frequency (VHF) and Global Positioning System (GPS) radio collars to study white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and gray wolf (Canis lupus) movements, ecology, and populations in the Superior National Forest (SNF) of northeastern Minnesota. Research began in the 1960s, making this the longest known migration study of deer herds subject to wolf predation. Deer winter ranges, mean migration distances (approx. 25–30 kilometers) and general migration directions have changed little over six decades, between the 1970s and the past decade. Though wolf populations have fluctuated, and habitat changes have occurred (such as caused by derechos and forest fires), deer in the SNF have migrated similarly across many generations. Information about deer migration is important to resource managers because their primary predator, the wolf, is on the Endangered Species List, and deer are carriers of brain worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis), a major mortality source for moose (Alces americanus) in the region.
White-tailed deer wearing a VHF collar in the Superior National Forest of northeastern Minnesota during December 2017. Photo by Dr. Shannon Barber-Meyer, USGS.
Distances and directions of spring migrations of 29 female adult and fawn white-tailed deer radio-collared in the Superior National Forest, Minnesota, during five winters between 1998 and 2017.