Freezing temperatures in Utah affect deer populations

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Utah has been experiencing freezing temperatures unlike those of recent winters past, and this is having a negative impact on deer populations.

The Department of Wildlife Resources is concerned for the safety of the deer as the temperatures stay below freezing.

Freezing temperatures are keeping deer down to lower elevations and causing more harmful interactions with the human population.

Mark Hadley, the department’s public relations specialist, said, “Utah’s deer herds are really important to our agency.” The deer provide ecological benefits, and populations could be endangered if certain efforts to reduce the risk of death among deer aren’t taken.

During the spring, summer and fall months, deer spend much of their day eating quality vegetation to build up their energy reserves. The deer rely on a large amount of fat that they store to get them through the winter months.

During mild winters, wildlife officials don’t have much reason to worry because vegetation can still have quality the deer need to feed. When temperatures drop below freezing and endanger or kill plant life, however, a major problem poses for the deer.

Luckily, deer in Utah seem to have built up enough in their energy reserves to get them through the winter.

Anis Aoude, game coordinator for the DWR, calms fears by saying, “Deer went into the winter with an average layer of fat on them.” He continues, “The snow depth in most of the state is not covering the vegetation. Slopes that face south are nearly bare in some areas, so the deer can still find food.” Officials are concerned, though, with the possibility that winter could last longer than typical.

Another problem deer face are living conditions in the mountains. Because of the high temperatures on elevated levels of land, namely the tops of the mountains, deer are having to come down and risk causing car accidents.

Chelsee Willardson, a biology education major from Richfield, was recently affected by the increase in deer populations that are migrating off the mountains. She and a friend were driving through Provo Canyon when they hit and killed a deer that seemed to pop out of nowhere. “We didn’t have service, and the bumper was ruined,” she said. “It was a really unfortunate accident.”

She isn’t the only person who has experienced deer-related car accidents.

Hadley states that the number of collisions increases during the winter. Drivers should take more caution when navigating through the canyons.

DWR, as well as public safety officials, have come together to create an initiative for helping Utah citizens prevent accidents and prolong the life of deer on the roads. Watchfordeerutah.com is a helpful site that educates drivers on what to expect in collisions and how to deal with them as well as avoid deer-related accidents.

The deer rely on human beings for help when the temperature drops. As long as people remain cautious, pay attention to wildlife crossing signs and slow down when driving through canyons, the number of accidents can decrease and the life of the deer can be prolonged.

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