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Harsh winter taking a toll on Michigan wildlife

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
A DNR official says the next few weeks may be especially critical to Michigan’s songbirds, pheasants, and turkeys.";

Michigan wildlife is struggling this winter, just like the state’s human population.

State wildlife officials say the next few weeks will be critical for Michigan deer, pheasants, and other animals.

As the days grow longer, animals become more active. Their metabolisms pick up and they need to forage for more food.

But when the snow is several feet deep, and a layer of ice coats normal food sources, finding enough food can be a problem.

Russ Mason is the head of the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division.  Mason points out wildlife is adapted to survive Michigan winters, but adds this year is a little more challenging.

“We’re already having problems, don’t get me wrong,” says Mason. “But it would be a really bad winter if this persists later into spring when animals' energy requirements go up.”

Mason says the next few weeks may be especially critical to Michigan’s songbirds, pheasants, and turkeys.

“Turkeys are even showing a little stress down south,” says Mason. “In Allegan, at our state game area, we got three feet of snow on the ground and 10-foot drifts. It’s really hard for turkeys to get through that.”

Mason wants to discourage the feeding of deer. He says feeding deer can lead to other problems, including the spread of serious diseases, like Chronic Wasting Disease.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.