Winter trends shows impact to next year's deer harvest

Published: Mar. 12, 2019 at 10:19 PM CDT
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Heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures since the end of January could impact harvest quotas for antlerless deer in northern Wisconsin next fall.

For decades, DNR biologists have used a metric called winter severity index, or WSI, to track winter's impact on deer.

"And it's a very simple track of snow depth and temperature, so every day the temperature drops below zero, the day gets a point, and every day the snow depth is higher than 18-inches, it gets a point,” said Jeff Pritzl, DNR Regional Wildlife Biologist.

Pritzl says winter severity index is used to forecast deer population growth in the spring based on the predicted body weight of does and the birth weight of fawns.

Historically, WSI only pertains to northern Wisconsin.

"Roughly Highway 64 and north we've moved into what we call the moderate category and the projection is by the end of March the northern tier counties could be toying with right around that severe range."

Pritzl says County Deer Advisory Councils around the state have now convened to make preliminary harvest quota recommendations for next fall and this year's WSI will be considered.

"What people are seeing right now is deer are shifting into a very sedentary state right now, right now it's about just going into coast-mode and burning as few calories as possible."

With that said, Pritzl urges everyone to avoid feeding deer.

"Their digestive system has changed to where they cannot process high energy food, so the introduction at this point of a new food source, whether it be corn or any other high energy food, really will not only do them any good, it can cause harm."

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