Expect Changes in Wildlife Movement, Habitat and Diets This Winter.
Chilling temperatures cause disturbances for all types of wild animals in the wintertime; and each animal has their own way of handling the harsh winter climate and challenges that come with the changing seasons. In addition to scarce foods covered by snow, wildlife need to watch for rifle hunters (especially deer) until the end of the year. Between frosty temperatures, and avoiding huntsman, deer and other wildlife move cautiously through wooded areas, lawns and gardens.
In winter, deer shed their lightweight summer coat for thicker, darker hairs called "guard hairs" that help insulate them during cool weather months. During winter, deer will bunker down and avoid moving too much to conserve energy. This is when they will burn half of their metabolism. In the fall, deer movement consisted of early morning and late evening hours in search of food where they can avoid deer hunters [and the general homeowner] and frigid wind gusts.
During the fall, they eat berries, vegetables, nuts and coniferous trees such as arborvitaes. In winter, natural resources are scarce; and they will eat tree bark and fallen leaves; but whitetails will soon migrate away from woods to avoid becoming deer meat from deer chasers. While you would think that deer would move further into the woods, they choose the opposite. And, where do they end up but in homeowners' yards, of course.
Travel routes depend upon security and which is the path of least resistance. Wind chill factors can increase or decrease daytime deer movement based on their comfort levels. After all, deer feel temperatures just the way humans do. Additionally, they will stay put in low-key areas or hills until it's safe to come out.
As if white-tailed deer weren't concern enough, property owners will need to worry about coyotes surfacing on their landscapes. Beginning in December, teenage coyotes will leave their parents to fend for themselves and search for meaty meals including rodents, rabbits and small dogs and cats. In January, they will search for mates and engage in breeding season. That means even more coyotes will be on landscapes by spring and summer.
Like white-tailed deer, rabbit diet in winter consists of twigs, buds, bushes conifers and any remaining plants they find from home gardens until they can go back to spring flowers, clover vegetable plants.
Yogi the Bear and his friends may go into "hibernation" during the winter months; but it isn't what you think. Bear hibernation in winter isn't a full sleeping mode; but instead, is a slow down in movement. In the fall, bears pack on calories to get them through the winter months, eating up to 90 pounds of food per day for Brown Bears and 30 pounds each day for Black Bears. During this time, they will eat grass, roots, berries, twigs, leaves, buds, fish insects, and small animals.
Bear hibernation will run until March or April; but can come to a close as early as February in some parts of the country.
Winter Wildlife Management Tips
Deer are other animals are desperate to eat in the winter months; and hard times will draw them closer to lawns and gardens. To protect small-scale gardens and farms from wildlife damage in winter,, home growers are advised to install wildlife fence. The type of fence used will be based on the animal(s) destroying the growing site. Here is a fence chart for reference:
|For light to moderate deer pressure, no chewing animals.||Moderate to high deer pressure; rabbits; coyotes; wolves; groundhogs; and livestock security.||For deer; bears; wild hogs; livestock (not effective for bird control*).|
Don't think the snow on the ground will prevent wildlife from causing agricultural damage this winter. Continue to use wildlife management strategies this season to reduce the number of deer populations and other animals on landscapes this winter.