Deer expected to survive winter

ESCANABA — Thanks to the relatively mild weather seen in the area over the winter, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is expecting to see strong over-winter survival rates for deer in the Upper Peninsula this year.

“The conditions look like we should have good numbers coming up,” DNR Escanaba Field Office Wildlife Biologist Karen Sexton said.

One of the largest factors behind this prediction was the low snowfall totals seen throughout the season.

“We had below-average snow depth this winter so far,” Sexton said. The Escanaba Field Office’s highest recorded snow depth for the season was nine inches.

Sexton also said two significant thaws occurred during the winter of 2016-17. Because of these factors, deer have been able to survive more easily than would have been the case in a more severe winter.

“Animals were able to move around in the snow fine and find forage,” Sexton said.

However, Sexton noted wintery conditions may still be seen in the U.P. for a while.

“We still have a few weeks left of what we would consider winter,” she said.

An ongoing DNR study is expected to shed more light on local deer survival rates after it is completed this spring.

“Starting at the end of March through early May, we’ll be doing fawn-to-(adult) spring surveys,” Sexton said.

For this survey, U.P.-based DNR staff members will be analyzing fawn recruitment rates in Deer Management Units 055, 155, 255, and 121 over the next few months.

“This survey allows us to gauge how well the fawns survived the winter,” Sexton said. Findings from this study will also provide information on over-winter survival rates for adult deer.

Sexton said that 2017 is the second year that the DNR’s U.P. staff has done this survey.

“It’s a fairly new survey that we started,” she said.

According to 2016’s U.P. Fawn-to-Adult Deer Survey, ratios of 70 to 90 fawns per every 100 adult deer were seen within the survey area. Sexton said that similar results are expected in 2017, which would indicate good over-winter survival for both fawns and adult deer.