Give Winter-Stressed Deer a Little Personal Space

winter-stressed deer, copyright Al Cambronne

Today in the Duluth News-Tribune, I suggested that we give winter-stressed deer a little personal space—and maybe even skip a year of shed hunting.  Although our area is due for a big meltdown, at the moment we’re experiencing a temporary setback.  Today and tomorrow we’re expecting at least a foot of new snow.

In this photo from last Sunday, the deer is standing in a “tree well” under a spruce.  Everywhere around it, the ground was still covered by two to four feet of heavy, wet snow.  When frightened deer flounder through that kind of snow for even a short distance, they burn huge amounts of energy.  This time of year it’s energy they can’t afford to waste.

(In case you’re wondering why I don’t practice what I preach, I saw this deer when I was walking by on the road.  I snapped the photo from there, avoided making eye contact or any sudden movements, and was careful to not linger.  I did not strap on snowshoes and wade into the thickest woods I could find to look for deer or their shed antlers.  If you live in my neighborhood, maybe you shouldn’t, either. And if you’ve already been doing that every weekend for the past two months…)

Sure, the weather is getting better.  But for deer here in the North, April is the cruelest month. Even in a normal winter, many of them survive months of subzero temperatures, belly-deep powder, and plate-glass springtime crust, only to exhaust their final reserves just before the last snows melt and the first green shoots emerge.  But this has not been a normal winter.

Some deer haven’t lasted until now, and the survivors are already running on empty.  So please…  Give those deer some room.

© 2014 Al Cambronne


Author: alcambronne

Retired photographer, author, and cancer survivor living in northwest Wisconsin.

2 thoughts on “Give Winter-Stressed Deer a Little Personal Space”

  1. I had never really thought about this from this perspective. Deer do waste a lot of energy moving around in the snow in the winter months and it makes sense that some just dont quite make it through the winter.
    I havent been out shed hunting because i’m working on some indoor projects, but I’ll keep this in mind next time I go.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Wes!

      Not saying no one should ever go shed hunting. But when a winter is especially harsh, maybe it’s good to give them a little room–and just use some common sense. I heard a third-hand story, for example, about the deer feeding operation just concluded in northern Minnesota. Just before it commenced, some hunters decided to “do a drive” through one of the proposed feeding areas–just so they could see how many deer were actually wintering there. Those deer probably didn’t need that extra stress.

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