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Severity index climbing, turkey, deer tips offered
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Winter severity indexes are soaring into the triple digits, prompting an influx of interest in feeding the turkeys and whitetails that share the northwoods landscape.

According to Shelby Hiestand, Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist for Langlade and Lincoln Counties, it’s important that the public has the best information of helping wildlife, so they don’t inadvertently make a bad situation worse.

“We are concerned about our winter deer too,” Hiestand said. “We understand that some people have been feeding some deer all winter. However, when deer who have been eating a diet of native vegetation start moving around more and get exposed to corn or hay, it can be harmful and even deadly.”

Hiestand said that it is important to remember that deer are adapted to survive, even harsh winters like this one.

“They change their diet and movements in winter,” the biologist explained. “They eat more twigs and buds and move a lot less to conserve energy. Often deer will move into forested areas with good cover or timber sales where there is increased food available from cutting.”

As temperatures warm up, deer begin moving around more and may come in contact with people concerned about their survival.

“If you have been feeding deer, it would be a good idea to move to deer pellets instead of corn or hay. These provide better nutrition and are less harmful for new deer to the area,” Hiestand said. “If you own property with timber, some of the best feeding you can do is cut down a few maple or aspen trees. This makes native food more accessible to deer.”

Anyone who finds any sick or dead deer is encouraged to let the DNR know. Hiestand may be reached at 715-536-4763.

Turkey flocks have also been hard hit, especially the birds that have not found feeding opportunities at feeders or in barnyards.

Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, explained that although turkeys are very capable of surviving brief periods of cold and snow, the longer those conditions last the more likely birds will die. Young birds are likely to be the hardest hit, he said, as they don't have the fat reserves that allow adults to survive up to four weeks with minimal food."

The cold forces turkeys to either increase their food intake or burn more of their fat reserves to stay warm while deep or crusted snow makes it difficult to locate food on the ground. Powdery snow more than 12 inches deep makes it difficult for turkeys to travel in search of food.


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Photographer Michele Woodford provided this photo of a winter deer.
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ANTIGO DAILY
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Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
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