Winter worse in the south

New Ulm, Minn. Addressing deer depredation complaints has become
a full- time task for some southwestern Minnesota wildlife
managers, as whitetails flock to farmsteads. Although they are in
good condition, the deer are hungry and looking for something to
eat.

“The food plots on our Wildlife Management Areas are being
depleted and some of the deer are coming into farmsteads,” says DNR
regional wildlife manager Ken Varland in New Ulm.

Snow covers all of southern Minnesota and is anywhere from eight
up to 24 inches deep. DNR officials say that most species are doing
fine, although a bout of bad weather could bring wildlife
losses.

Minnesota’s pheasants are especially vulnerable.

Drivers in the farmland region are seeing pheasants along the
roadsides, where they pick for grit or bits of grain from passing
trucks. Because the fields are snow-covered, the roadsides are
among the only places where they can find something to eat.

Fortunately, Varland said, many volunteers have stepped forward
to operate pheasant feeders.

The farmland region’s newest game bird, the wild turkey, is
faring well this winter. Varland said wild birds trapped elsewhere
have been released in his region in recent weeks and seem to be
doing fine.

In southeastern Minnesota, where turkeys are being trapped for
the state’s stocking program, regional wildlife manager Jack
Heather says the birds are in good condition, thanks in part to the
reprieve offered by a January thaw. Last December was the single
snowiest month on record for Rochester. Fortunately, the snow had a
low moisture content and settled during thaws.

Although pheasants are being forced to the roadsides and song
birds are flocking to backyard feeders, Heather says that wildlife
seems to be doing just fine. His biggest concern was the weather
forecast.

“Rain and freezing rain can be tough on wildlife at this time of
year,” he says. “And we have rain in the forecast for this
weekend.”

Still, Heather is thinking spring. He says the lengthening
daylight is triggering breeding behavior among some bird species.
Cardinals are singing and Canada geese are starting to pair up.
Great horned owls are establishing their nesting territories.

In northern Minnesota, plenty of winter lies ahead. But DNR
forest wildlife coordinator Tom Soule says it’s been “a nice winter
all the way around.” Snow and cold haven’t threatened northern
wildlife.

Soule says ongoing winter deer research is increasingly showing
that snow depth has a greater effect on whitetail survival than
cold temperatures. Long periods of deep snow are especially tough
on deer. This winter, northern Minnesota is blanketed with ample
snow, but the depths are not hindering deer movements.

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