Stress On Deer – Harsh Winters
I live in the very southern part of Missouri and as I write this (March 3, 2014) almost all the ground between here and the North Pole is covered by snow and ice. It’s been a brutal winter throughout most of the whitetail’s range.
There’s been much research on the impacts of winter weather and the health of deer. It takes a lot of calories to remain warm during colder than normal conditions. Deer that survive such conditions obviously use most if not all of their fat reserves. The body condition can become very low by the time spring green up occurs and they can recover.
Depending on how low their body conditions become, the past winter can have a huge impact on antler and fawn production – or even survival. The better the habitat quality the faster deer can recover and the lower the impact on future antler and fawn production.
Deer living where soybeans and corn are produced used to have an advantage over deer living in areas that are primarily covered by timber due to the amount of grain left in the fields. However, improved combine efficiency and the practice of tilling directly following grain harvest has significantly reduced the amount of grain available to deer and other forms of wildlife.
In addition, fence row to fence row farming has drastically reduced the amount of native browse available to wildlife in these areas. These practices have resulted in deer in farm land experiencing tremendous stress during tough winter conditions.
Winter stress or winter kill wasn’t considered much of a factor for deer living in areas of row crop production in the past. That’s no longer the case. The limited food and cover during the late winter can cause tremendous stress on all deer, even those living where food is plentiful during the growing season.
Growing and deer together,
Dr. Grant Woods was raised and began his love of white-tailed deer as a bow hunter in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.