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WSU helps tribe assess deer for sustainability
Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2012
By Gabrielle Peterson, WSU News intern
PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington’s Muckleshoot Indian tribe historically has depended upon black-tailed deer for food, clothing and cultural purposes. Washington State University this spring will help the tribe learn more about maintaining this valuable natural resource.
The tribe and wildlife agencies in the Pacific Northwest are concerned with possible declines in deer populations related to what the animals eat and how herbicides affect their diets.
The tribe, which is located to the east of Puget Sound with headquarters in Auburn, Wash., has collected data on deer survival and habitat use in a variety of landscapes. But it does not have the resources to examine how deer choose what to eat in particular environments.
With a $75,000 grant, WSU will compare diet composition, quality and nutrient intake rate of black-tailed deer. Researchers will examine quality and quantity of forages that have been sprayed and have not been sprayed with herbicides.
WSU will use the study results to recommend habitat management to the Muckleshoot to ensure robust and sustainable deer numbers.
"Deer depend on abundant, nutritious forage,” said Lisa Shipley, professor and scientist in the WSU Department of Natural Resource Sciences and a principal investigator on the project. "Herbicides used to promote tree growth, by reducing competition with other plants, may temporarily reduce the abundance of forage for deer.”
The field work will begin in June, she said. Black-tailed deer fawns have been raised for the project, and study sites on private timber company property in western Washington have been selected.
The bulk of the funding will be provided by The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; the Muckleshoot tribe and the National Council for Air and Stream (NCASI) are also funding the project.
The data collected will be used as a doctoral thesis for Ph.D. student Amy Ulappa under the supervision of Shipley.
Those collecting data will include Ulappa, Rachel Cook from NCASI and five field technicians. Other principal investigators are Mark Swanson, assistant professor in the WSU Department of Natural Resource Sciences, and John Cook from NCASI.