Winter Mortality Could Impact 2017 Western Hunts

Winter isn’t over yet by a long shot, but several states in the US West are reporting significant winter mortality that’s sure to affect permit numbers and hunter success in 2017.

In Idaho, the state reported that 50 pronghorn were killed in a single incident in Payette after winter snow drove them into town, where they ate toxic leaves from Japanese yew. The state is feeding wildlife both to reduce conflicts with private landowners and to preclude even greater losses at a cost of more than $650,000 this winter. The previous record high for emergency feeding in the state was $387,000.

Wyoming is also expecting significant deer and pronghorn mortality due to winter snow and cold temperatures, especially in northern and western parts of the state. In addition to deteriorating body condition due to lack of feed, road kills are up significantly as deer use roadsides to escape the snow.

North Dakota has experienced high snow levels, and deer, pronghorn, turkeys and pheasants will be impacted. Deep snow has completely covered cattails and tree rows in much of the state, and wildlife need these areas for protection. Dead deer are starting to show up in farm lots as more than 60 inches of snow have driven them from cover.

Other places to watch include Montana and north-central Oregon, where snow has piled up since mid-December. Late season storms are common through April. Since fawns are especially prone to winter kill, expect the 2016 fawn crop to be absent in a large part of the northern Rockies and Great Plains.