West Virginia wildlife officials are assessing the harsh winter’s toll on the state’s deer and turkey populations to determine if it will affect the fall hunting season.
Deer, turkey and other animals already were struggling with food shortages stemming from poor mast conditions in the fall. The unusually cold and snowy winter added to the problem, said DNR biologist Gary Foster.
“Biologically, in colder weather, animals are going to burn more calories,” Foster said. “So extreme weather conditions also play into it, absolutely.”
There is evidence of starvation in the mountainous and western counties. Field staff haven’t yet submitted mortality reports from the southern counties.
“In the mountainous areas, such as Randolph and Pocahontas, we did have some decent oak masts, but overall statewide, it was a very poor mast year, so with the addition of the snow, of course, we knew we were going to have some winter kill, in deer especially,” he said.
In some areas, the deer population already was too high to be supported by the habitat.
“You would much rather see hunters harvest deer to bring populations in line with the habitat. But Mother Nature also plays in a role in that,” Foster said.
He said deer are resilient and the population can bounce back fairly quickly.