Hook and Bullet Club - winter snows

by Nick Wognum

The 2004-2005 snow season may just turn out to be average after all. And for wildlife this is a good thing. But the tale of the tape as always will be March and how much snow falls before spring finally arrives.<BR><BR>DNR wildlife managers project winter mortality for deer by calculating the sum of days with a low temperature below zero and the number of days with 15 inches or more of snow on the ground. <BR><BR>This number is called the winter severity index and in our area, the readings are usually among the highest in the state. <BR><BR>For this winter, the WSI is at 78, right behind last year’s 80 and far ahead of the 52 two years ago. Of course, last year we finished at a 150, a number wildlife managers cringe at. <BR><BR>“Last year we ended up being 150 and we impacted some fawns this year,” said Tom Rusch, the wildlife manager for DNR in Tower. “If we get the same thing and end up at 140 or 150 we’re going to lose some fawns.”<BR><BR>Not that a drop in the area deer population would be that bad of a thing but too much of a drop is a greater problem.<BR><BR>“March is the big ticket,” said Rusch. “If we get those big snows and we have a tough March, we’re going to lose some deer. And if we have back-to-back losses it will affect two year classes and that can have an impact.”<BR><BR>The DNR has some tools available to help the problem, specifically the number of antlerless deer permits given out for various permit areas. <BR><BR>While area 175, which is basically the Ely area without the Fernberg and land east of Highway 1 and a portion of the Echo Trail, will probably stay the same permit-wise, other areas could change. <BR><BR>Area 116 has had a lottery system for antlerless permits the last two years and that could revert back to a bucks-only area if the WSI climbs above 140 again. <BR><BR>Rusch has said in the past that the WSI is taken with a grain of salt since other conditions can make a difference. Powdery snow is much different than what we have now where the wolves run on top of the crust and the deer fall through and become easy pray. <BR><BR>But with the big warm spell we had, this could even things out for now.<BR><BR>“We’re slipping into a moderate to mild winter. The snow level dropped in Tower to 19 inches from almost 30 so the snow really settled,” said Rusch.<BR><BR>He did point out that snow depth is measured in open areas or where there is birch and popple. That will be the areas with the most snow.<BR><BR>The deer will be found where the conifers are since there can be a foot difference in a cedar swamp than in a birch stand.<BR><BR>The deer sure are moving around right now and you can easily spot their trails where they cross roads. The wolves know this as well and you can bet there are paw prints not far away from the hoof trails. <BR><BR>That’s all part of the big plan in the woods. Life will go on, end and begin no matter what the WSI says. You know the saying, “It’s all part of the circle of life.”