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More deer expected to survive winter

Jordan Beck | Daily Press Karen Sexton, a wildlife biologist for the DNR Escanaba Field Office, measures snowfall totals near the office Friday. According to Sexton, recent warm temperatures and feedback collected during the 2016 firearm deer hunting season have given the DNR hope that deer survival rates in the Upper Peninsula will be strong this winter.

ESCANABA — Spring may still be far away, but the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has already found some reasons to believe deer survival rates in the Upper Peninsula could be better this winter.

“We’re hopeful that it might be a mild winter,” DNR Escanaba Field Office Wildlife Biologist Karen Sexton said.

Sexton noted that relatively warm temperatures over the past few weeks have caused snow cover in the area to compact, allowing deer to be more mobile during the winter.

“(That’s) really going to be advantageous for deer survival,” she said.

The DNR’s most recent information on deer populations in Michigan comes from reports given to them by hunters during the 2016 firearm deer hunting season, Sexton said. These reports included statewide mail surveys and deer camp surveys that were specific to the U.P.

“The reports that we’re receiving from hunters… indicate that the number of deer seen per day is improved from the previous season,” Sexton said. She also noted that fawn sightings in the area appear to be up — an early sign that deer populations may have begun to rebound.

While these are all positive indicators, Sexton noted it is still too early to know what effect this winter will have on the Upper Peninsula’s deer population.

“Winter’s not quite over yet,” she said.

In February, the DNR’s U.P. wildlife staff will participate in winter deer surveys.

“That helps us understand the areas that the deer are occupying during the winter period, as well as … relative abundance,” Sexton said.

People living in eligible areas who wish to help boost deer survival rates are currently able to apply for supplemental deer feeding permits, Sexton said.

“It increases survival by providing feed through winter,” Sexton said.

The DNR authorized the ­issuing of feeding permits in the southern U.P. after average snowfall totals from the Escanaba and Crystal Falls Field Offices were found to have passed a predetermined threshold by Jan. 16.

Those who apply for and receive permits are asked to place deer feed in sheltered areas under conifer cover and away from regular use by humans. Participants are only allowed to feed deer with grains — no fruits or vegetables can be used for this purpose.

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