Deer and Elk Behaviors

Welcome to Snapshot Wisconsin! We are only 24 hours in and are already nearly 20% complete.  Thanks for all you do!

As you’ve probably already noticed, white-tailed deer and elk are captured frequently on our trail cameras.  This is because both species are abundant in the region of Wisconsin where the trail cameras are located. In addition, deer and elk are large, mobile animals that travel the visible wildlife trails along which the cameras are placed.  By classifying deer and elk in terms of adults and young, you are helping us to understand the population dynamics of the species.

But there’s more to learn from the trail camera photos, including an understanding of deer and elk behavior. Having additional information on behavior will allow us to investigate the impact predators have on the behavior of deer and elk. Trail cameras are unique in that they allow us to look at both the behavioral response to predators, in addition to the population response.

This Season we’re asking for your help to identify 5 behaviors for deer and elk: foraging, vigilance, interaction between individuals, resting, moving, and staring at the camera. How we are defining each of these behaviors is listed below, as well as in the field guide (tab on the right hand side of the page).

Foraging: Head down or below shoulder height and eating something or, rarely, a deer/elk obviously eating foliage above the shoulder

Vigilant: Head is up, ears erect, and alert posture

Interaction: Any direct physical interaction with another deer/elk; can be aggressive (fighting), play, or grooming

Camera Stare: Looking directly at the camera

Resting: Deer/elk has bedded down in front of the camera

Moving: Traveling by either walking or running


About Christine Anhalt-Depies

Research Scientist at Wisconsin DNR

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