Elk NetworkWildlife Coping with Harsh Winter Conditions

General | February 22, 2018

Elk, deer and other wildlife are doing what they do when confronted with belly-deep snow and wind chills often well below zero. They’re coping.

“Overall, I’m not seeing any mass die-offs,” said Todd Anderson, warden sergeant with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), “but I am seeing some fawns that appear to be in very poor condition.”

Biologists say heavy snow is forcing wildlife to change the way they feed. And that could be deadly given the harsh conditions in some places.

“Even in the absence of hunting, normal overwinter mortality is around 25 percent for deer, and we expect that figure may be higher this year,” said Melissa Foster, FWP wildlife biologist. “This year’s drought has left many deer in poorer-than-average condition. Fawns are noticeably smaller than normal. For deer, every winter is a test of endurance. They rely on stored fat reserves to make up the difference between their daily energy expenditures and what few calories they can consume. Even slight deficits in stored fat reserves can have big impacts. Deep snows or bitterly cold temperatures cause deer to use up precious energy at a faster rate.”

Deep snow also denies some animals, like antelope, from crawling under fences while it keeps deer and elk from getting a good jump over them.

Read more here.

(Photo source: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)