The harsh winter we’ve experienced could have a huge impact on wildlife, especially since the cold weather in Wisconsin has caused them to lose fat reserves early.
According to WXPR.org, state wildlife biologists are predicting fewer anterless permits, which would give the population a chance to recover.
Kevin Wallenfang, a big game specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resouces, spoke with the station about the toll cold weather takes on deer.
“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.”
Wallenfang was also quoted in a DNR piece speaking to last season, which set the stage for the possible problems leading into this year.
“For the 2013 hunting season, antlerless permit numbers were set as low as we’ve seen them since the 1990s,” Wallenfang said. “With deer numbers already low in some areas, this winter is going to slow the recovery of the northern herd.”
Cold weather in Wisconsin affects more than just the tolerance on a deer’s body. It alters the plant life that make up food plots for deer, as well as the odds of reproduction. Pregnant deer need enough food and water to support their unborn fawns, and if it’s not easy to find, chances of a live birth can decrease.
It can also have a widespread effect, as Wallenfang explained: “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.”
The DNR is monitoring the situation and asking the public to report any instances of dead or possibly starving deer. Their Winter Severity Index measures the combination of cold temperatures and deep snows to gauge winter stress levels. They also speak with loggers, farmers, trappers, and others who spend their time in the winter woods, to gather information about deer sightings, or a lack thereof.