Harsh winter hurting deer and wildlife population

Published: Feb. 26, 2019 at 9:58 PM CST
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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said the weather is hurting the habitats of fish, pheasants and deer. It could mean fewer animals for people to hunt and fish.

The Iowa Wildlife Federation said this harsh winter is already changing how some deer are behaving, and other animals could have population problems long after the weather warms up.

Iowa Wildlife Federation President Joe Wilkinson said seeing deer closer to neighborhoods isn't something to celebrate. It means they're having to work harder to find a meal.

"They're exposed more in the outside instead of in the brush where they can stay away and keep warm," said Wilkinson. "They have to be out in the cold, they have to get the food they need to survive."

Wilkinson said soon people may see even more on the side of the road.

"They're taking more chances, you'll see more roadkill around the roads this time of year," said Wilkinson.

Wilkinson said deer aren't the only animals in danger, though.

"Whenever Iowa gets 31 inches of snow or more, the pheasant population starts seeing a very noticeable drop," said Wilkinson.

Palo Outdoors Manager Matt Schrantz said he's worried specifically for pheasants

"I think this is really going to put a hit on (them)," said Shrantz."Upland game can rebound pretty fast but if we get a few years of this it can really decimate the population."

Soon, even fish will be affected. Schrantz said the snow that's on top of the ice doesn't allow the sun to get through, cutting off oxygen for the fish.

"I've had customers come in and say they're had a lot of fish come up the hole and that's a tell-tale sign that they're getting no oxygen," said Shrantz. "So, you drill a hole and all these fish are going to go right to that hole and try to find oxygen."

One way to hopefully balance it out will be warmer weather.

"A normal spring is all I ask for," said Shrantz. "A seasonable spring I think can get though it all."

Wilkinson also wants to remind people not to feed deer. He said giving the animals a bushel of corn may help them secure a meal temporarily but it won't help them in the long-run. When the animals share food like that together, crossing saliva could help spread chronic wasting disease.