Long Winter Creates Concern for Michigan Deer Population
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the mortality rate of Michigan deer is well ahead of last year's pace and the increase is largely due to our long winter.
The Michigan DNR's data comes from deer which have been radio-collared in the western U.P. as part of ongoing predator-prey and deer migration studies. As of April 13, those deer have suffered a 13.5 percent mortality rate so far this winter, with 11 percent of adult female deer dying. Last year's mortality rate was 15 percent through the entire month of April.
The biggest difference is that last year 95 percent of deer had migrated from their winter habitats by April 11, this year none have migrated. Anytime winter conditions extend past March 15, it can mean trouble for Michigan's deer population. This year, some areas which are typically covered in green grass by mid-April are instead covered by two feet of snow.
DNR staffers are also starting to get a lot of calls of stressed deer reported at feeding sites. Another bad sign for deer is that in some areas the only snow-free places are near roads which can lead to an increase in deer/vehicle collisions.