Back to News

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.





Log in or register to post comments.

Brent D. - posted 2 years ago on 02-16-2017 09:18:02 am
Parma, Idaho

Good to hear Jeremiah, and that makes sense to me. Future hunts will be impacted by this...not necessarily now. Might be a good idea to burn points now then.

Bill D. - posted 2 years ago on 02-16-2017 09:15:27 am
OK and CO

Has anyone seem similar updates from G&F depts in other states yet? I'm curious how bad things are looking in MT, CO, NM, and NV in particular. Thanks in advance.

Jeremiah R. - posted 2 years ago on 02-15-2017 05:59:29 pm
Kemmerer, Wy

SW Wyoming

I wouldn't worry about this year and hunting in Wyoming if you are looking for a pronghorn buck. The biggest hit, I have seen in the area has been the antelope fawns. The pronghorn bucks look like they will be fine. The problem of this winter will really be felt in 2-4 years as so many fawns are looking unhealthy or have passed away. If the Doe/Fawn tags are reduced, it may be a wash moving forward.

Deer are interesting. They went into the winter is really good shape. Deer that didn't migrate in time, are probably gone. The deer that did migrate should be in ok shape heading into the spring. I would still pull the trigger on region G or a max point LQ hunt if I was a NR.

Brent D. - posted 2 years ago on 02-15-2017 10:46:06 am
Parma, Idaho

Good info to keep in mind as the Wyoming deadline approaches. Might be worth sitting out a few years, not only because of the high mortality...but also letting them have a chance to recover without adding additional pressure. I know that's not how everything thinks though.