How you can help whitetails in areas that experience severe winters.
QUESTION: What is being done to reestablish and protect the deer yards? I know it has been a big problem in Vermont. Many deer yards are overgrown, and the deer are having a hard time reaching the food. Old growth is too high and needs to be cut back for new plants to grow.
ANSWER: I honestly have no idea what Vermont is doing for management of deer wintering areas. However, there are some general guidelines that states and private landowners can follow to improve or maintain winter deer habitat.
For starters, the primary component of deer wintering areas is shelter, not food. You need a dense canopy of softwoods (evergreens) to reduce snow depth and wind. This makes it easier for deer to travel, and to conserve energy as they try to keep warm. The larger the shelter area, the better. It will be even more effective if it is connected to other areas of shelter through travel corridors.
You also need to have a good food source nearby. As a deer’s natural winter diet consists largely of coarse woody browse, that means having preferred hardwood species. And, as you noted, that browse needs to be accessible.
This can be accomplished through proper forestry practices like periodic thinning, selective cuts and firewood cuts. It’s also worth nothing that while you want older softwoods for shelter, periodic modest cutting may be helpful to prevent the stand from becoming over mature and dying.
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