The harsh winter we’re experiencing could affect this year’s deer hunting season. Biologists are predicting low numbers of antlerless permits to give the deer population a chance to rebound.
DNR Big Game Specialist Kevin Wallenfang says deer are well adapted for cold, but it still takes a toll.
“A year like this, where we started in November – their fat reserves were being taxed very early in the year. We’ve had very cold temperatures, very deep snow – all of the things that can hurt them kind of are going on right now.”
With food limited, the population can suffer direct losses from starvation…as well as from bearing fewer fawns in the spring.
Last winter’s conditions were also hard on deer. Wallenfang explains that could have an effect on survival this year.
“If they did some very significant damage because they ate everything they could reach, and they ate some things that they normally wouldn’t because they were desperate, that just hurts the habitat.”
Still, officials warn that feeding deer is not as helpful or easy as it sounds. It can harm the animals if you feed the wrong thing or expose them to predators. The DNR says check with your local wildlife biologist for rules surrounding when deer feeding is allowed.
“The truth of the matter is, when you have a really bad winter like this going on, the best thing for that population is that it’s at very low levels. Because that makes food availability to the ones that aren’t out there more accessible.”
The DNR is asking the public to report instances of dead or possibly starving deer to help with monitoring efforts.