Wyoming biologists forecast probable winter kill

Two mule deer in winter field
Photo credits: Shutterstock

This year’s winter has been rough for Wyoming wildlife – so much so that biologists assume winter kill will definitely impact countless animals. Yet, the extent is still uncertain as heavy snowfall, high winds and frigid temperatures continue over the next few months. Obviously, Wyoming is no stranger to severe winter weather; this year’s weather is worse than years past, which is what worries state biologists.

“I can tell you that our folks that work out in the field across the state are keeping a very close eye on those conditions,” Brian Nesvik, Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s (WGFD) chief of the wildlife division, told The Casper Star Tribune. “And also how our wildlife and your wildlife are behaving and trying to monitor to the best of our abilities the effects of this winter.”

WGFD recently held an online forum to handle questions from the public about these hazardous winter conditions for wildlife. Biologists are particularly concerned about the Jackson region, Pinedale area and the Cody region and fear that fawn mortality will be high come spring, according to The Casper Star Tribune.

While supplemental feeding seems like a good idea, Doug Brimeyer, WGFD’s deputy chief of the wildlife division warns that “it can actually worsen the problem,” especially with mule deer.

“Rapid changes to their diet can lead to chemistry changes in their stomach, and they can actually be poisoned from certain types of food that they’re given in the wintertime if it’s changed too rapidly,” Brimeyer told The Casper Star. “We have a number of instances where deer have been found dead with full stomachs.”

Supplemental feeding can also spread disease among the herd if one animal is sick and infectious. For now, the best plan of action is to wait.

“Our wildlife populations in the state have evolved in these harsh conditions, and they’re very resilient,” says Nesvik.





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