Funded Research Projects: WILDLIFE SCIENCE

Assessing Wolf-Cougar Interactions and Impacts in Washington

Research Sponsored By: WA Department of Fish and Wildlife
Principal Investigator: Aaron Wirsing
Project Description
Wolves (Canis lupus) were extirpated by humans in Washington State in the 1930s. However, following the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in 1995/1996, and subsequent legal protections, wolves recolonized the state in 2008 and have grown to a population of roughly 90 individuals grouped into 19 confirmed packs. Cougars (Puma concolor) occupy a similar niche to wolves by hunting large prey, but these felids were not extirpated from the Pacific Northwest during the last century. Thanks to ongoing collaboration with Dr. Brian Kertson (Carnivore Research Scientist) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), this study will combine past data on cougars with present data on cougars and wolves. Thus, we will investigate how wolf presence affects the ecology of other predators in the Pacific Northwest, particularly the cougar, which served as the apex predator during wolf absence. Specifically, we will explore the interaction between these top predators at two sites in eastern WA (Methow and far northeast) using both movement data from radio-collars individuals and photographic data from motion-activated cameras deployed at wolf and cougar kill sites. Results from this project will inform the state about the direct impacts of recolonizing wolves on cougars, and the indirect effects that wolves may have in prey (deer and elk) population through induced changes to cougar foraging.