This winter has been particularly mild for Minnesota’s white-tailed deer populations, which can mean more survive through to spring. However, winter severity is not the only factor that contributes to deer survival. 


Winter was mild for Minnesota deer

The DNR’s latest Winter severity index map (from Nov. 1, 2020, to Feb. 24, 2021) shows the entire state falls within the mild range for WSI readings.

White-tailed deer are well adapted to survive Minnesota’s cold, snowy winters. Their winter coats of hollow hair that conserve body heat, along with decreased movement and a slower winter metabolism that requires fewer food resources, help most deer navigate winter in relatively good condition.

But severe winters with very deep snow and prolonged cold temperatures can increase deer mortality. Other factors such as habitat, food availability and timing of spring green-up can compound or buffer the impacts of a severe winter.

The DNR uses a measurement called the winter severity index to provide a general indication of winter conditions, relying on temperature and snow-depth data. WSI, along with a number of other considerations, can help wildlife managers assess how well deer survive winter.

Lower deer mortality may be expected during mild winters and higher mortality during severe winters. But the winter severity index is not predictive by itself because the simplicity of the point calculation does not account for the many other factors that influence deer survival.

Talk with the DNR about deer issues

Do you have thoughts or questions about deer in your area? Mark your calendar for Wednesday, March 31, from noon until 8 p.m., when wildlife staff are dedicating time to discuss deer-related topics on the phone.

Local wildlife managers across the state invite the public to ask their deer-related questions and offer thoughts on deer issues. 

In addition to discussing general concerns about deer, individuals can ask DNR staff about last year’s harvest data, share their own observations of local deer populations, discuss their thoughts on the upcoming 2021 deer season, or learn more about the deer population goal setting process or chronic wasting disease management.

To find contact information for the wildlife manager in your area, visit the deer open house webpage: 

Area managers always welcome calls from the public, so those who are not available during the dedicated time are encouraged to call at their convenience any time during business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).

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