Average deer survival predicted this winter

Karen Sexton, wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Escanaba Customer Service Center, measures snow depth outside the center Thursday. Sexton said the winter of 2017-18 is looking to be an average one for the Upper Peninsula’s deer population. (Photo by Jordan Beck, Escanaba Daily Press)

By JORDAN BECK

Escanaba Daily Press

ESCANABA — According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Escanaba Customer Service Center, the winter of 2017-18 is looking to be an average one for the Upper Peninsula’s deer population. This is expected to have a positive effect on over-winter survival rates for deer in the area.

“Deer are likely to have had good survival through the winter,” DNR Escanaba Customer Service Center Wildlife Biologist Karen Sexton said.

In terms of total accumulated snow depth, Sexton said this season has been in line with previous winters locally.

“It seems to be about an average winter based on the data we collect here at the Escanaba office,” she said. The highest snow depth recorded by the Escanaba Customer Service Center for the winter of 2017-18 was eight inches.

Similar total accumulated snow depth trends have been seen at DNR stations across the U.P.

“Each of the stations are similar, in that they are around average,” Sexton said.

While conditions during the winter of 2016-17 were not dramatically different from conditions during the winter of 2017-18 locally, there have been some differences between the current winter and the previous one.

“Both were … right around average, but last winter, we saw a couple of significant thaws,” Sexton said. Similar thaws have not been observed in the area this winter.

This was not the only difference between these winters.

“We’ve also had some colder temperatures (this winter),” Sexton said. Additionally, she noted that there has been more compact snow in the area during the winter of 2017-18, which can create challenges for deer movement.

On the whole, however, Sexton said this has been the third winter in a row to be average or better for deer locally. This is in contrast to the winters of 2012-13 and 2013-14, in which area snow depths were above average.

Fawn production should be good this year, Sexton said.

“We’ll also be having … deer advance into the next age class,” she said. Because of this, sightings of mature bucks will be more likely in the area.

In the near future, U.P.-based DNR staff members will participate in fawn-to-adult spring surveys. These surveys, which will return for their third year in 2018, analyze fawn recruitment rates in the region.

“We tend to do those when there’s no more snow on the ground,” Sexton said. She noted that this year’s survey should start by the end of March.