Our Northern Whitetails are now Desperate for Food

Our beleaguered northern whitetails, now trapped by deep snow in browse depleted wintering areas, need a snow melt soon. My long-time deer hunting partner who lives in north-central Wisconsin called to tell me increasing numbers of deer are showing up in his country yard to climb to the top of a seven-foot snow bank to browse on branches of his apple tree. I don’t know how high this is on the desperate whitetail scale, but this must be near the top. In the northern suburb of Minneapolis where I live, following our historic record snowfall in February whitetails living in a park six residential blocks away have recently been showing up in my yard and neighboring yards to munch on exposed tops of various flowering shrubs and evergreens (leaving tracks in snow like those in the photo above). Last night, a 15–20-pound white-faced rat, more commonly known as an opossum, spent the evening trying to figure out how to open the refuse can on my back porch, arousing considerable excitement in Harvey my wirehair pointer who was finally dispatched to end the ruckus. I have no idea what the flock of robins wintering in my yard have been eating, but they seem to be doing all right. Though whitetails in my northern Minnesota study area could move about in in snow in search of browse without great difficulty during December and January, our record snowfall since then has doubtless forced them to subsist on much, if not all, of their fat stores by now (mid-March). It now appears we are going to lose quite a few deer due to starvation this winter, mostly younger and older deer, including trophy-class bucks, if a serious snow melt doesn’t commence soon, enough to finally enable whitetails to break out of their depleted wintering areas (deer yards) to find new, unused sources of life-saving browse and/or crop residues in nearby farm fields.

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