Just returned from a few days at our place around Mio Michigan where the snow is still 2 feet deep in the woods! Our driveway was a solid sheet of ice as the past few sunny days have melted some of the near record snowfall in the area. It may take till May for the 4-5 foot high snowbanks to melt away! The back-roads are in rough shape to say the least as snow, ice, and mud make for a slippery (rut to rut) drive!
I of course was very interested to see how the deer around my place were holding up, and it didn’t take me long to find out. They were using our property to bed in, as the neighbor a few properties away, has horses. The smell of hay, for a deer that can’t find food, must draw them like a magnet. There were signs (runways) deep in the snow that these deer were doing as little traveling as possible. We saw many area’s used for bedding, usually under a tree where the snow wasn’t so deep.
Northern Michigan is not like the middle or southern portions of the state, as the deer numbers have been down for years. Acorns are an important part of a deer’s diet, but around my place oak trees are few and far between. Deer are grazers, and the snow pack this winter has severely limited their ability to browse. There is a swamp not far from my place and many of the trails came from that direction. No doubt many of these deer were “yarding” in that area. Not much fat producing protein in cedar or hemlock trees. In fact we saw where some of the smaller pine trees had been stripped of their branches. I’m really not sure if deer will eat pine needles or pine bark, but something was nibbling on them.
The deer we saw, for the most part, looked to be in half way decent shape, but there were those whose ribs and hips were quite visible. There was one small fawn that had a big section of hair missing from his shoulder to the middle of his back. The exposed area was right down to it’s skin, but the deer appeared none the worse for it!
While sitting at the kitchen table we saw a group of crows landing just off our property, and I know something “dead” had to be over there. We walked over and discovered what was left of a deer. Critters had been chewing on it for awhile, so there wasn’t much left, except for what was still under the snow. Makes you wonder how many more are laying in the woods? I also think of the doe’s that are about to give birth to their fawns. Out of the 15-20 deer that we saw, only a couple looked to be pregnant. Try as we may to spot a buck we did not see a deer we could identify as such.
I think the deer need help through a winter like the one we just had, but state regulations forbid the “artificial” feeding of deer in several counties in Northern Michigan. Could be part of the reason deer number are down in this part of the state, but what do I know?