DNR seeks private landowners to help improve deer habitat in three U.P. counties

MASS CITY – Private landowners interested in helping to maintain or improve Upper Peninsula deer wintering habitat can learn more about the subject and cost-share programs available to aid in those efforts at an upcoming meeting the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has scheduled for Wednesday, an agency press release notes

The meeting, which will focus on private land ownership in northern Ontonagon, Houghton and Keweenaw counties, will be from 6-8 p.m. at the Greenland Township Community Center, located at 1502 Mass Ave., in Mass City.

To avoid deep snow, deer migrate each winter throughout most of the U.P. to deer wintering complexes often called deer yards containing dense canopies of conifer trees, especially cedar and hemlock.

This important conifer shelter reduces snow depth and allows deer to move over connected snow-packed trails. These trail systems provide access to food and assist deer in evading predators.

Ontonagon, Houghton and Keweenaw counties contain some of the region’s deer wintering complexes. The past three severe winters and subsequent decline in deer numbers have raised concerns about habitat conditions in these complexes, especially winter shelter.

To help improve habitat conditions for deer, the DNR needs help from private landowners. Of the 10.6 million acres of land in the U.P., roughly 20 percent is managed by the state.

In the U.P., where deer have to migrate to survive winter, they gather on about 30 percent of their range. The U.P. Habitat Workgroup, which is composed of natural resource professionals, private landowners and sportsmen’s groups, has been working for several months toward increased habitat improvements in deer wintering complexes.

At the meetings, Steve Carson, of the U.P. Habitat Workgroup and a DNR wildlife biologist, will provide an introduction to deer wintering complex management plans, a general overview of deer winter range in the U.P. and general forest management guidelines.

Willis will discuss the Forest Stewardship Program.

For more information on various cost share programs that can help offset the cost of resource management plan preparation, contact Gary Willis at the DNR Baraga office at 906-353-6651, ext 122.

The Ontonagon-Gogebic Conservation District has a forester on staff available for a free site visit to your property. Contact Cory Howes, at 906-667-1100, ext. 632 to help decide if there are financial assistance programs that can help improve deer wintering habitat.

Find out more information about the U.P. Habitat Workgroup. Contact Steve Carson at 906-563-9247.