How are Deer Doing This Winter?

Posted By Wolf Ridge Naturalist
February 9, 2016

This morning, during our weekly phenology walk with Peter Harris, we spent a considerable amount of time tromping through deep snow, covering our cheeks form the cold wind, and mentioning how chilly out it was. Although this winter has been relatively mild according to Northeastern Minnesota standards, today was harsh.

The DNR tracks winter conditions on a scale called the Winter Severity Index (WSI). This index is designed to determine how harsh the winter season is on wildlife populations. The DNR utilizes snow depth, snowfall, max/min temperature, and precipitation data to determine the WSI. This index provides estimates of winter season deer mortality rates, thus influencing the number of deer permits given out the following hunting season. Additionally, this index, when used over time, can help determine the changes occurring in climate.

In the winter of 2013-14, as seen on the chart, Wolf Ridge ELC had one of the most severe winters in the state. What do you think the WSI for 2015-16 will be?

– Emily Richey and Sonja Smerud