Long, hard winter has been tough on deer

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 6, 2014 - 5:05 PM

The DNR’s cost for feeding might surpass $300,000.

hide

Dan Guida of rural McGregor poured deer food on a plowed logging trail in a patch of state land heavily used by deer. Guida is a member of the local Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. With him is Wayne Bobendrier of the Tamarack Sno Flyers snowmobile club, who used the club's trail groomer to clear a spot for the food.

Photo: Doug Smith, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

It’s now official: This winter will be one of the nastiest on record for northern Minnesota — and deer are paying the price.

The Department of Natural Resource’s winter severity index (WSI) — used to predict winter’s impact to wildlife — is breaking records in some areas, including portions of Carlton, St. Louis and Lake counties. The index is based on the number of days the temperature was zero or below and snow depth was at least 15 inches.

The WSI now has exceeded 180 points — considered severe — in most of northern Minnesota, and some areas are breaking records set in 1995-96, one of the worst winters ever. Some deer mortality can occur with a WSI as low as 125 to 130, officials said.

Until recently most of the dead whitetails Tom Rusch has encountered were fawns.

“Now we’re seeing and getting reports of adult deer starving, too,’’ said Rusch, DNR area wildlife manager at Tower in northeastern Minnesota. “It’s disheartening.”

The WSI was 205 in Rusch’s area on Friday and climbing. “We still have 26 inches of snow,’’ he said. The old WSI record was 202 in 1996.

“We’re in uncharted territory,’’ Rusch said. Records elsewhere likely will fall, too. The WSI has exceeded 200 in areas near Bigfork, Babbitt, Cloquet, Crane Lake, Duluth, Finland, Grand Rapids, Gunflint Trail, Isabella and Two Harbors. And more snow fell Friday.

At Cloquet, the WSI was 208 on Friday, breaking the record of 190 set in 1996.

“In the last two weeks, we’re getting more calls about deer that have died or are struggling,’’ said Chris Balzer, DNR area wildlife manager.

Hunters will feel the impact this fall as the DNR restricts the issuing of antlerless deer permits to try to rebuild the herd.

“We’re expecting a more conservative deer season this fall,’’ said Paul Telander, DNR wildlife section chief. “Some areas likely will be bucks-only. Deer have had a tough go of it for four of the last six winters in the northeast.’’

This winter could rank in the top five for severity, he said.

 

Deer feeding extended

Meanwhile, DNR officials have agreed to spend more hunter-generated money to extend the state’s emergency deer feeding program several weeks as the winter drags on.

“It doesn’t help that we keep getting 10-inch snowfalls in April,’’ said Ed Boggess, Department of Natural Resources fish and wildlife division director. “We’re committed to providing funding until there’s no longer continuous snow cover.’’

The deer feeding program — the first state effort since 1996 — began March 6, and about 880,000 pounds of feed costing about $164,000 has been distributed, said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA).

He, too, is getting reports of dead deer.

The deer hunters group pushed the DNR for the feeding program and is handling the distribution. The deer-feeding fund underwritten by 50 cents from every deer license sold is being tapped. DNR officials had allocated $170,000 from a $770,000 account, saying they wanted to save $600,000 for disease issues, including chronic wasting disease.

But Boggess said that once feeding begins, it should continue because deer become dependent on the feed.

Johnson said he orders feed week by week, depending on need. “We have lots of snow to get rid of before we can stop feeding,’’ he said. “If we continue feeding for a total of eight weeks, through May 2, the total cost would be about $302,000.’’

By comparison, about $1.3 million was spent on deer feeding in 1996.

About 1,000 volunteers are feeding around 16,000 deer at 1,000 sites in 13 permit areas, Johnson said. That’s a fraction of the northern deer herd, but Johnson said it’s better than doing nothing. He said the feeding “definitely’’ is having an impact and that volunteers report that deer being fed seem to be benefitting.

DNR officials oppose feeding wild deer, saying it doesn’t help deer on a population level and causes them to congregate, which could contribute to the spread of disease and make them vulnerable to predators, such as wolves.

Listening sessions

Concern over deer populations dominated six “listening sessions’’ held recently around the state to get input from deer hunters. The sessions were at Brainerd, Cambridge, Bemidji, Morris, Nicollet and Virginia, and 45 to 90 people attended each.

The MDHA co-sponsored the gatherings, and Johnson was present at each.

“People want more deer,’’ he said. “People are skeptical the DNR has the right estimates for deer populations in their areas. They want [deer density] goals to be higher.’’

Telander said the DNR will consider the comments from participants and those made online.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City 4 Top 5th Inning
San Francisco 2
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 2 FINAL
San Jose 1
Boston 4 FINAL
Toronto 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
Montreal 3
New Jersey 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Dallas 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 7
Detroit 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Chicago 1 3rd Prd
St. Louis 3
Pittsburgh 3 3rd Prd 9:37
Nashville 0
Tampa Bay 2 3rd Prd 14:33
Minnesota 6
Florida 0 2nd Prd 17:50
Arizona 0
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
UAB 17 FINAL
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia 27
San Jose St 31 FINAL
Navy 41
Northern Ill 28 FINAL
Eastern Mich 17
(25) UCLA 40 FINAL
Colorado 37
Akron 21 FINAL
Ball State 35
Massachusetts 35 FINAL
Toledo 42
Ohio U 21 FINAL
Western Mich 42
Ga Southern 69 FINAL
Georgia State 31
Kent State 3 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 10
Oregon State 14 FINAL
Stanford 38
Fla Atlantic 16 FINAL
(23) Marshall 35
Louisiana Tech 31 FINAL
Southern Miss 20
(1) Miss State 45 FINAL
Kentucky 31
Georgia Tech 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 28
(22) West Virginia 34 FINAL
Oklahoma State 10
Texas Tech 27 FINAL
(10) TCU 82
Michigan 11 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 35
Boston College 23 FINAL
Wake Forest 17
Central Mich 20 FINAL
Buffalo 14
Vanderbilt 14 FINAL
Missouri 24
Old Dominion 51 FINAL
Western Ky 66
UNLV 20 FINAL
Utah State 34
Temple 14 FINAL
UCF 34
(15) Arizona 59 FINAL
Washington St 37
Texas-El Paso 34 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 0
Texas State 22 FINAL
ULM 18
Wyoming 17 4th Qtr 7:40
Colorado State 45
Syracuse 6 4th Qtr 8:17
(21) Clemson 16
(3) Ole Miss 7 4th Qtr 12:57
(24) LSU 3
(4) Alabama 34 3rd Qtr 0:13
Tennessee 17
So Carolina 35 4th Qtr 14:34
(5) Auburn 35
(13) Ohio State 17 3rd Qtr 13:37
Penn State 7
(20) USC 0 1st Qtr 14:42
(19) Utah 0
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Seattle 2
D.C. 1 FINAL
Montreal 1
Toronto FC 0 FINAL
New England 1
Portland 1 2nd Half 21:00
FC Dallas 0
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 24 FINAL
Toronto 26
Brt Columbia 28 1:29
Winnipeg 23
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close