As this is written mid February 2014 the severe winter of 2013-2014 marches on with no relief in sight. Most human animals are staying in their warm abodes
starring out the window hoping for spring’s arrival. As for the wildlife, they of course do not have this option. Unless they are of the variety that hibernates. The rest are left to make do. They try to maintain body temperature by seeking the shelter of trees, brush and snowbanks. In the case of deer many are not making it. I spent this last weekend touring a wide area of west central Wisconsin, farm country, found 30 dead deer. There are probably more buried under the snow.
Fawns have a hard time in winter many of them will die as the adult does push them away from food in order to survive themselves. The 2 year old doe is best prepared deer to survive winter.
There is very little that can be done at this point in time to save winter stressed deer. It has been estimated during the winter of 1995 northern Wisconsin lost 126,000 deer to winter starvation. Some expect this winter to have a similar winter kill statistic. Or worse.
WDNR managers have been warning about another severe winter kill for years unless the herd was reduced. Many experts believed Wisconsin’s deer were pushing the land’s carrying capacity. From my observations I believe they were correct. Now nature is making the correction and nature always over corrects.
Next season some are going to blame the wolves but consider their situation. The snow this season is
unusually dry, fluffy and deep. There is no top crust for wolves to travel on, nor has there been any all season. The going has been hard even for a man on snowshoes. This means the wolves are floundering in deep snow most likely unable to catch prey. They too are likely starving. A reasonable person would expect, when fewer wolves are around next year the anti wolf hunters will blame the hunters and so that circle will go round and round. Like wolves and deer chasing their tails.
The time to save the deer from this fate has passed for now. I urge all hunters particularly those who manage land for deer to get out there and see what is going on. Note all the food plots of clover and other low growing greens are buried under some feet of snow. Acorns and other fall mast are buried and inaccessible. What the deer need now is woody browse and many well meaning food plotters remove all of that. Make plans to maintain some above snow browse for next winter. If there are trees that need to be or can be cut down you might want to consider dropping those this weekend. February is the tree pruning month.
All areas will have shrubs and trees that given a chance will grow and provide winter time food. For example in my area box elder trees are targeted as a native invasive and the state foresters urge their removal/eradication. They are fast growing and if not managed will take over, however, they hold seeds through winter providing deer and turkeys with a valuable food source during times of starvation.
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