Despite hard winter DNR says Wisconsin wildlife doing fine
Despite record-breaking snowfalls in southern Wisconsin and cold temperatures statewide, hunters and residents should not be alarmed about wildlife, according to state wildlife officials.
This winter has actually been closer to normal for Wisconsin, Department of Natural Resources officials note.
"Winter mortality is a natural process and can be important in keeping wildlife populations in balance with their habitat," said Jeff Pritzl, wildlife supervisor for the DNR Northeast Region at Green Bay.
The Northern Forest region has experienced 15 mild winters during the most recent 20 years," said Keith McCaffery, retired DNR deer biologist.
Wild turkeys can remain in an inactive state during periods of inclement winter weather for up to two weeks without food, and can recover from a 30 percent weight loss.
Biologists note that Wisconsin wildlife are physically and behaviorally adapted to survive winter weather. Deer and turkeys survive the winter by finding areas with a combination of good thermal cover and natural sources of balanced nutrition.
Wildlife biologists strongly advise against feeding deer and turkeys.
Feeding deer is illegal in roughly the southern third of Wisconsin.
Feeding wildlife, biologists say, can actually do more harm than good for various reasons, including enabling weak and sick animals to survive, increasing dependence on unnatural food sources and increasing the potential for the spread of diseases.
"If artificial feeding occurs, these animals may be drawn to sites because it is an easy food source, but most of the time these sites are not near their preferred winter cover," says Mike Zeckmeister, wildlife supervisor for the DNR Northern Region at Antigo.
Supplemental feeding also often causes animals to change their natural movement patterns, which can increase the odds of animal/vehicle collisions, and increase their vulnerability to predators, notes Jake Fries, Dane County DNR wildlife biologist.