April 15, 2014
MADISON - In order to gather more information regarding the status of deer throughout the state, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is conducting health assessments on car-killed deer and evaluating this winter's effects on Wisconsin's deer herd.
DNR wildlife staff are making extra efforts this spring to find and examine deer that have been struck by a vehicle. These general health assessments are trying to look at the overall health of the deer. Wildlife staff will be looking at fat levels at numerous parts of the body as well as checking for pregnancy. With a goal of ten assessments per county, the department hopes to gain a broad view of how winter impacts deer on a large scale.
"A statewide effort to monitor body condition will give us a better sense of just how strongly this winter has impacted deer populations," said DNR Science Services research scientist Daniel Storm. "The county by county information will help us understand where the impacts of this winter were most severe,
The department is also paying close attention to the survival rates of over 200 radio-collared deer that are part of a four year deer research project. The project has evaluated survival rates in the northern forest and eastern farmland areas of the state through early April 2014 and is an ongoing study. According to Storm, about 30 percent of the collared fawns in the northern study have died this winter, while roughly 15 percent have died in the farmland area. In contrast, adult deer in both study areas appear to be doing well with six percent losses in the north and two percent losses in the farmlands. In each area, deer have died from a variety of causes including predation, vehicle collisions, and starvation.
The winter severity index, another tool used by DNR to help determine the status of Wisconsin's herd, is a measurement to help gauge the effects of winter weather on deer survival. The index is calculated by adding the number of days with 18 inches or more of snow on the ground to the number of days when the minimum temperatures were zero degrees Fahrenheit or below. A winter with an index of less than 50 is considered mild, 50 to 79 is moderate, 80 to 99 is severe and over 100 is very severe. In Northern Wisconsin, the average winter severity index through March 2014 is 142. In several areas, index measurements have hit record highs, including readings of over 175 points.
Through the use of health assessments and the winter severity index, the department is able to closely monitor and help manage Wisconsin's deer herd. DNR is working to evaluate these findings and will continue to use a number of tools to evaluate winter's effects.
For more information about deer management and health in Wisconsin or the winter severity index, visit the DNR web site at dnr.wi.gov and search keywords "deer."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel Storm, 608-630-0370