DNR: winter did take its toll on wildlife

BIG RAPIDS — Area Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials are hinting at what many people have expected: the harsh winter has taken its toll on wildlife.

Katie Keen, DNR spokesperson for northern Michigan, said no official reports have been determined yet on winter survival for wildlife, including deer.

“A lot of the wildlife, because it can affect animals more throughout the year, based on the young, they could have stillborn fawns,” Keen said. “Or maybe they’ll just have one instead of having twins and triplets. Maybe (with) their reproductive capacity, the doe might have a harder time because of the stress. We’ll still be seeing the effects of this throughout the, summer and into the fall.

“Folks are getting out in the woods now so we’re hearing about folks finding deer, just like we do every year, but maybe older deer or more deer than they have in the past,” Keen said. ‘This year, we expect we’ll have more deer die from the winter we just had.”

Steve Griffith, a wildlife biologist with the DNR office in Traverse City, indicated “there’s no question” there has been some winter mortality with the wildlife.

“The last three or four years where we’ve had milder winters you could say winter kill was probably neglible,” he said. “This year, hardest hit for deer was last year’s fawn crop or what would be the yearlings. The length of the winter was more of the issue than the coldness.

“I would say most of the deer we did collect from the winter that succumbed to the elements were yearlings, although we did see a few adult deer that died from starvation. I’ve heard an estimate from one biologist in the U.P. that they probably lost nearly the entire fawn crop up there. Obviously winters are lot more severe there. We definitely lost deer this winter. I don’t think it’s as significant as some think.”

“It depends on what area you’re talking about,” Pete Kailing, Mecosta County DNR wildlife biologist said. “In this area, Mecosta County, Oceana and Newaygo, I have very few reports of dead deer. We had a couple that apparently starved to death, only a handful of calls.

“On turkey I didn’t get any calls of people finding dead turkeys from a harsh winter. If hunters do find dead turkeys, I’d like to hear about it. As you go further north, it’s still winter up there in parts of the western U.P. It’s been harder on the deer herd up there. They haven’t come up with any estimates yet.

“It seems like even in the northern Lower, we had a harsh winter and I’ve heard of some deer mortality but I don’t have a good handle on it. I do know turkeys have survived in some spots everywhere in the state. That’s due in large part that they live close to agricultural area or where they’ll be fed intentionally during the winter.”