Snow deepens, but deer still surviving

Field Editor

Brainerd, Minn. Despite the snowstorm that pummelled northern
Minnesota last weekend, state wildlife experts say that
white-tailed deer appear to be in good condition and should be able
to cope with increased snow depths.

“We’d rather have the snow come late in the winter rather than
early,” says Regional Wildlife Manager Dave Schad in Brainerd. “Up
to this point, the deer have been able to get around and get to
food.”

Schad said that north-central Minnesota is now blanketed with 20
inches or more of snow. DNR wildlife staff planned to make an
aerial survey this week to assess the condition of deer, as well as
wild turkeys that were released in the area.

Some deer have died this winter, primarily fawns. Schad said
winter losses are normal and attributes some of it to excellent
fawn production last summer following an unusually mild winter last
year. This may have led to more fawns being bred, which generally
occurs a month or more later than the usual November rut. Their
offspring would consequently be born late and perhaps did not grow
large enough to survive the winter.

In Bemidji, Regional Wildlife Manager Jim Breyen says there are
22 to 24 inches of snow on the ground, with depths decreasing
farther north. He said deer are likely doing well, but was
concerned about pheasant losses due to cattail sloughs used as
winter cover being filled with drifting snow.

Both wildlife managers said the winter severity index, which is
derived from a formula that measures cold temperatures and snow
depth, hasn’t indicated that deer and other wildlife are in
trouble. Generally, wildlife managers become concerned about deer
survival when the index reaches 100 by early February. Presently,
the highest reporting stations are International Falls at 93 and
Ely at 90. A sampling of winter severity index readings for the
week ending Feb. 25 follows, as well as a comparison with last
year, which was unusually mild.

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