Monday, January 30, 2017

Mule Deer Migration

This winter is the harshest one I’ve seen since I moved to the Bear Lake Valley, Idaho seventeen years ago.  Winter is half over and we have already had over 100 inches of snowfall.  Of course it has been compressed on the ground quite a bit, but there is still so much snow that deer are unable to forage in many areas.  The east side of Bear Lake usually has less snow than the rest of the valley, so mule deer are migrating there in amazing numbers.
There are lots of shrubs in the area; sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and more.  Mule deer are browsers, and can live off these plants that grow above the deep snow.  They look pretty good so far, but there are so many that I’m afraid the food will be gone soon.
Almost all the deer we see are does and fawns.  This fawn is browsing on sagebrush.  The bucks are more cautious and have been staying back in the hills, but a few are showing up now.  Since they took longer to get to the food at the lake, they look skinnier than the does.
It is a lot of fun to drive to Bear Lake and see these beautiful animals.  Usually, deer run away from cars here, but these hungry animals have become bolder, and will often stay close enough for photos.
The deer are up to their bellies in snow in many places, so feeding stations have been set up for deer and elk in areas with the deepest snow.  I hope the Bear Lake deer won’t need to find their way to one of those stations to survive this difficult winter.

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