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      Research being done on deer population

      This year's firearm season showed about a 15 to 20 percent decrease in registered deer numbers. Officials believe deer numbers look to be on the decline.

      But what's the cause of it? Predators? The weather?

      Well, a group of grad students from Mississippi State, along with help from the DNR and a number of wildlife organizations, are working to find that out.

      The group went out to the woods in Menominee County on Monday to recollar a 285-pound black bear and her yearling cubs. Despite the yearlings being a little uncooperative, the group was able to collar two out of the three.

      The process is all part of a research project to study white-tailed deer fawn survival rate in Michigan.

      "Ultimately what we're doing is going out and collaring a number of white-tail fawns as well as a variety of predators in trying to determine the predation rate in predators as well as determining the effects of winter severity that it might have on overall body condition of the deer herd and that might affect survival," explained graduate student researcher, Nathan Svoboda.

      Since beginning a year ago, the group has been able to collar about 16 black bear, 8 coyotes and 2 wolves. But those aren't the only predators being studied.

      "We're working to estimate the bobcat population throughout the study area," said research associate, Heather Stricker. "We've captured four--one was too small for the GPS collar--but we did have three on the air this summer."

      There's still about two years left in this research project, which the students will continue to collect data from both predators and the deer. They hope to do the majority of the data analysis by the beginning of 2012, and they say eventually this could be a U.P.-wide project.

      "Ultimately the goal of the project is to have a study similar to this take place in the mid-latitudes, like the Marquette area and in the not so distant future, do the project in the northern latitudes, like Houghton," Svoboda explained.

      You can keep up-to-date on the project throughout the year online. Visit their website here.