Those who may have noticed more deer roaming around the west end of Fort Frances, and the west end of the district in general, may be wondering if the animals are moving in closer because they’re hungry or thirsty this winter.
But Darryl McLeod, a biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources office here, said the answer wasn’t either. “They’re seeing more deer because there’s more deer out there this year,” he noted.
After the severe winters in 1995-96 and 1996-97, the deer population has been on the rise. Below average snowfall and milder temperatures also have been beneficial.
“First of all, food is much easier for deer to find when there is less snow,” noted McLeod.
On the flip side, usual predators like wolves and coyotes aren’t much of a problem when the snow is low.
“The movement of the deer isn’t restricted as when they are in deeper snow,” he explained. “Snow doesn’t start to restrict movement until at least 30 cm, and doesn’t restrict it greatly until 50 cm.
“That’s when you see more kills, and the population drop. The severe winters decrease herd numbers for sure,” he added.
McLeod conceded a minor factor to increased movement of deer was a lack of drinking water as some areas with sparse snow provide little to quench a deer’s thirst.
While the average level of snow on the ground in mid-January is about 30 cm, McLeod said it was only 10 cm previous to the snowfall late last week.
But he added the drinking water situation was not dire, especially with the district now seeing some snowfall on an weekly basis.
Although McLeod stressed the weather could take a turn for the worse before this winter is over, he expects to see deer numbers increase again as the conditions remain optimal before mating season this fall.