Kodiak deer hunters are expressing concern that this winter’s deep snow and extended cold spells may be taking its toll on the deer herd. Recent social media posts of dead Kodiak deer, mostly fawns, has fueled this concern.
But Kodiak ADF&G biologist John Crye says it is too early to tell what the real winter toll will be. The only reports the island office has received have been of dead fawns on the North end of the island.
“Another big factor is when spring arrives, and it’s still winter here,” Crye said.
The island’s abundant Sitka black-tailed deer flourish during mild winters, as Alaska has had for the
past two years, and can suffer 20-40 percent die-offs in hard winters, when deep snow and bitter cold deprive the deer of access to adequate forage. Kodiak last had a significant winter kill in 2011-12. With recent mild winters since then, blacktail numbers have boomed and Kodiak hunters have enjoyed several consecutive excellent hunting seasons.
However Kodiak Adventure Lodge owner Larry Carroll says conditions have yet to combine the worst combination that is deadly. Late spring deep snow and hard freezes are deadliest for deer in his experience, Carroll said.
“I watch FAA weather cams all the time all over Kodiak. I never saw any great amounts of snow that stay for very long this year. The worst is when we have snow late (February-March) that stays and continues to make the deer suffer,” Crye said.
“There is little snow if any on all the south facing slopes other then up very high on the mountains. Even on the North it is very little to speak of. Mostly grass showing. In bad years there are 2-3 feet of snow all the way to the beach. Even in mid-April the snow can linger. If there is any winter kill I would attribute it to the cold and would be minor for most of Kodiak.
“I think the worst was we had extended periods of cold this year and that tends to be hard on the deer with little to no fat reserves (fawns and yearlings). We have seen this year a couple dead fawns (actually looked like late season fawns as they were very little).
Every year there is a percentage of deer that die because of weather even in mild years. Just the nature of life. Most does have twins and some get eaten and some die due to weather and natural causes. I do not see anything to be alarmed by, at all, at least where we are.
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