This week Colorado citizens voted to reintroduce grey wolves to their state. Historically, grey wolves were all over the west, but currently they are extirpated (locally extinct) throughout most of their range. Voters are now letting these apex predators come back.
Given my recent cougar episodes (#29 and #30 on the viral cougar video and eastern cougars) and this new ballot proposition, I thought it would be a great time to talk about the impacts of the loss of apex predators like cougars and grey wolves on their prey – specifically the white-tailed deer. The eastern USA has been without these two apex predators for a long time now.
But the plot thickens – humans act as predators for white-tailed deer through hunting and coyotes are canids that are very closely related to wolves. In recent decades, coyotes have expanded their range from the western US into the east. Can these two predators act as apex predators? Replace grey wolves and cougars?
Lots more goes into becoming an apex predator than just killing individuals alone – at least from a prey species’ perspective. The presence of predators can enormous effects on prey species – so much so that prey dramatically change their behavior.
In this podcast, I talk about a study I did in 2016 looking at the relationship between coyote abundance, hiking, and human hunting on the vigilance patterns of white-tailed deer. Our results surprised us!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- What exactly are apex predators
- How apex predators influence prey species and therefore have ecosystem-wide impacts
- What the “landscape of fear” is
- Our large-scale study across 6 states on the impacts of coyotes and human hunting on deer vigilance, a measure of predator risk in ungulates
- Our surprising results and what they mean
- Challenges that apex predator reintroductions face
- and MORE!
Resources and Sources Mentioned in Can Coyotes and Humans Replace Apex Predators in the Eastern USA?
Video with more info on cougars:
Stephanie Schuttler is a wildlife biologist with 17 years of experience in mammal ecology and conservation, education, and outreach. Read her inspirational story, “My Unexpected Journey Into Science” to find out how she went from the daughter of a jeweler to a Ph.D. in wildlife biology. Feel free to contact Stephanie here.