Severe weather has put Ontario deer herds at risk

by Guest Author | February 25, 2014

severe weather - fawn in winter, photo by Mark St. Cyr

This winter’s temperature lows of -30°C and wind chills that make it feel much colder, combined with the seemingly endless amount of snow have conservationists concerned about the impact these severe conditions are having on deer.

“Deep snow, hard crusts and frigid temperatures could result in significant mortality of adult deer and the loss of this spring’s fawn crop,” said Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) senior wildlife biologist Mark Ryckman.

The Ministry of Natural Resource (MNR) reports that most deer were in good shape nutritionally at the beginning of the winter due to an abundance of natural foods in 2013. However, it’s likely that this year’s harsh winter conditions will negatively impact many central and northern Ontario deer herds.

“We may not be in an emergency situation yet, but it is looking more and more likely that intervention will be required somewhere in the province,” said Ryckman.

The OFAH has a DeerSave Fund that was established in 1995 to help members, clubs, and partners deliver emergency winter deer conservation activities, such as browse cutting, trail breaking and emergency feeding. The OFAH is initiating discussions with MNR regional biologists to determine areas of the province that would benefit most from winter conservation efforts.

Concerned conservationists can help by packing down trails in areas frequented by deer, and by cutting down the occasional tree branch from maples, birch, dogwood, sumac, hemlock, cedar, and other species that deer prefer in winter.

The OFAH only endorses deer feeding in emergency situations, and only according to science-based MNR guidelines. It does not recommend that citizens leave any type of feed for deer as doing so could do more harm than good.

“Conservationists can also help by contributing to the OFAH DeerSave Fund so we are ready to provide help when and where it is needed most,” added Ryckman.

To learn more about the program, call the OFAH at (705) 748-6324 ext. 239 or visit

– Photo by Mark St. Cyr

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