Getting what they canWhen winter hits as hard as it did this year animals often times find themselves scrambling to find food and if they find it, they’re going to eat it no matter who it belongs to.
By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press
When winter hits as hard as it did this year animals often times find themselves scrambling to find food and if they find it, they’re going to eat it no matter who it belongs to.
It’s a reality that several farmers, and ranchers have had to come to grips with this winter as deer invade haystacks looking for much needed food.
“It’s just nature, you got to learn to manage it,” said Joe K. Wanner, who ranches southeast of Dickinson. “Sooner or later they’re going to get there. It’s not like you can stop them.”
Wanner said the depredation doesn’t affect him as much as others because he only has 30 head of cattle, but there are about 100 deer on average that frequently visit the field where he has his hay stored.
He isn’t the only one with large herds of deer consuming his hay. Kevin Kading, the private lands section leader for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said the number of calls they’ve received on deer depredation has definitely increased this winter.
But Kading said it’s easy to have an increase in calls with the mild winters of the past decade.
“It’s hard to say with the last ten years of easy winters. We’ve all gotten so spoiled, and we just had minimal problems in the last ten years,” he said. “It is nothing compared to what we experienced in the winter of 1996-97.”
It’s possible the Game and Fish’s hay yard program helps keep calls down as well. The program provides fencing materials to landowners who are responsible for constructing the fence, which is intended to help with deer depredation problems.
Page Myers, who ranches in the Badlands north of Medora, and has one of the Game and Fish’s hay fences said the fence does its job.
There haven’t been many problems with depredation in recent years, Myers said, but he can tell the animals are hungry this year.
“It was so dry last fall, that they dig through the snow and there’s nothing there,” he said. “Where I feed my calves and my cows ... after they’re done with it they (the deer) come in and clean it up. We haven’t had a winter like this for years, so everything is hungry.”
Kading said the problem has affected the entire state, but having something in-common with the rest of the state doesn’t make it any easier on the landowners who need to feed their cattle.
“When the supply is tight they’re already wondering if they have enough for the winter. That’s when the tolerance level drops off,” Kading said.
But those landowners who are having issues now may be out of luck.
Kading said it’s hard to manage deer populations in February, and landowners need to let the Game and Fish know if they think there will be a problem early in the winter or in late fall.
“The landowner needs to work with us too,” he said. “Usually the problem didn’t occur overnight and it’s not going to be solved overnight.”
Outside of the hay fences Kading said there are a few other options the Game and Fish has. It can increase deer licenses in that area the next year to try and cut the deer population down.
Wanner said there are so many deer in the area around his home that may be the only solution.
“I see this as a problem that’s going to come more and more because there’s a lot of deer out there,” Wanner said, adding he doesn’t think it’s something the Game and Fish can solve on its own.
“I think it’s up to hunters too. They have to start hunting for breeding stock. They got to start killing does and start taking some of these deer out of here,” he said.
Wanner said this year is probably a mild year compared to how it could get in the future if nothing is done, especially with the habitat that has been created for animals in the last decade.
The Game and Fish are more than willing to help landowners, Kading said, there just needs to be communication.
“We need to be aware of what’s going on so we can work with them, and they can work with us to nip it in the bud before it gets to be a problem,” he said. “We are willing to work with them. It just needs to be a two-way street.”
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