Severe winter causes concern for white tail deer population

By KBJR News 1

March 31, 2014 Updated Mar 31, 2014 at 10:18 PM CDT

Minnesota (NNCNOW.com) --- The severe winter has caused concern over the white tail deer population, and wildlife managers are concerned now, more than ever.

The winter severity index for white tail deer in most of northeastern Minnesota is the highest in the state.

Snow depth and temperature are used to measure the winter severity index.

Points are given for each day the snow depth is 15 inches or deeper, or when the temperature drops below zero at any point during the day.

A map created by the Minnesota DNR shows how severe the winter has been from November 20th to March 26th.

Most of the northland is covered in black, indicating a winter severity index of 180 or higher.

A portion of land in St. Louis County, parts of Cook County, and Koochiching county are listed as the second most severe, with indexes of 160 to 179.

The southern half of the state is listed at 51 to 79, indicating a mild winter.

Studies have shown that prolonged cold temperatures and deep snow can reduce overwinter survival of white tailed deer.

Wildlife Manager Chris Balzer of the Cloquet DNR says he's received an influx of calls from people, saying they are concerned about the well-being of the deer population.

"An uptick in phone calls lately. A couple of reported dead deer. Reports of the deer being in tough shape, that they just don't seem normal. I'm assuming those are probably deer that are struggling from the winter," said Balzer.

Mortality rates are unknown at this time, but DNR officials expect to release fall harvest information in July.

It's week five of the Emergency Winter Deer Feeding initiative and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association has increased the amount of food it's feeding the deer from last week by 22 tons.

Four of seven distribution locations ran out of food last Saturday.

Another location is down to it's last half pallet.

The MDHA is not taking any new feeding volunteers.

One of several listening sessions for deer hunters will be held at the Mesabi Rang College in VIrginia on Tuesday.