Friday, February 28, 2014

Deep snow could take a toll on deer

The snow is now about chest height for whitetails such as this yearling
As the above photo taken a few days ago at our home in Nolalu shows, whitetail deer are finding it difficult to move around in the deep snow. I wouldn't be surprised if a great many of them end up dying this winter.
We now have at least three feet of the white stuff on the ground and possibly up to 40 inches. The deer have stopped moving almost entirely, restricting their activity to areas under thick conifers where the snow isn't as deep.
Winters like this are infrequent any more which is why deer have spread so widely into Northwestern Ontario. At Red Lake deer were common until the late 1960s when three consecutive winters of about four feet of snow wiped out the species for about 40 years, until they could re-establish themselves from populations near the U.S.-Canada border.
What is bad news for deer, however, will ultimately be good news for moose. These biggest of the deer don't like deep snow either but fare much better than whitetails do. If deer are reduced in numbers next year, there will be fewer of them to spread the fatal brain worm disease to moose. This parasite is almost always harmless to deer but is 100 per cent fatal to moose. It is harmless for humans.
The mild winters and shallow snow depth of the past several decades have meant deer have replaced moose in a great deal of Northwestern Ontario.
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