ESCANABA (AP) - An increase in whitetail deer populations may be behind the higher number of animals bagged by hunters in at least one part of the Upper Peninsula.
About 875 deer have been recorded at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources station in Escanaba, the Daily Press reported Saturday.
It's the highest number during firearm season at the station since 1,100 deer were checked a dozen years ago. Firearm season ended Friday.
It has averaged about 715 deer checked over the past 10 years, said Vern Richardson, a state wildlife technician.
"We're well over our 10 year average," Richardson said. "We've had a number of light winters in a row so we haven't had as many deer die off due to winter related causes."
Survival rates for fawns are higher during milder winters as does are better able to find food.
Fat deposits of deer checked at the Escanaba station also are higher than in recent years.
"It ... means that the deer are healthy," Richardson said.
Michigan's whitetail population is estimated at more than 1 million. About 640,000 hunters bought one or more Michigan deer licenses by the firearm season's Nov. 15 opening day, according to the DNR.
Muzzle loading season for deer in the Upper Peninsula begins Friday and runs through Dec. 16.