Due to Severe Winter Conditions
December 06, 2006
Early, heavy snow fall is creating difficult survival conditions for local deer populations in many parts of Southeast Alaska. The department has received reports of hunters seeing deer in some areas that appear to be showing early signs of starvation. If current snow conditions continue for several months it is likely there will be substantial losses.
Hunters can help speed the recovery of deer populations by continuing to hunt deer as normal, with emphasis on harvesting bucks and fawns. Fawns have very limited fat reserves and are typically the first animals to starve during hard winters. Among adult deer, bucks are typically more vulnerable to starvation due to smaller fat reserves following the breeding season. Does are also typically in the best physical condition and best able to survive.
Heavy snow conditions limit the movements of deer and much of their normal winter food supply becomes inaccessible. As a result, large numbers of deer concentrate at low elevations and on shorelines and beaches. Some deer are forced to feed on kelp and other aquatic plants, which are not very nutritious for the animals.
Long hard winters occurred from 1969 to 1971. During those years the Department recorded significant winter mortality of deer. As a result, deer numbers were substantially reduced in most of Southeast Alaska. Since then, winters have generally been mild and any heavy snow falls have not persisted long enough to be a big problem for deer. Recent mild winters have allowed deer populations to grow to relatively high levels in many parts of the region.
The Department has no plans to close or otherwise change the current hunting season. At the end of the winter Department personnel will assess the extent of winter mortality and determine if changes to hunting regulations are needed in future years to help with recovery of these populations. In the meantime, there is no reason that hunters should not take advantage of the opportunity to harvest available deer, particularly if they focus their harvest on bucks and fawns.
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