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New Brunswick deer struggle to survive as winter drags on

New Brunswick's deer population is suffering through a tough, cold winter and wildlife officials believe thousands will not make it to summer.

15 per cent of province's deer herd expected to die before summer, says provincial deer biologist

New Brunswick's deer population is suffering through a tough, cold winter and wildlife officials believe thousands will not make it to summer.

The total population is estimated at 90,000, however, Joe Kennedy, New Brunswick's provincial deer biologist, predicts a 15 per cent winter mortality rate amounting to approximately 13,000 animals.

The winter conditions give predators an advantage, said Kennedy.

"As the deer are losing energy from trying to travel through deeper snow, they don't have the ability to outrun coyotes, dogs and bobcats," he said.

"In a milder winter you may have as many predators, but the deer can get away from the predators."

Kennedy says the delayed spring weather puts the herd at an even higher risk.

"They become weaker and weaker, and more susceptible to prey. The deer are literally running out of energy," he said.

A 15 per cent mortality rate is higher than normal, but still lower than the 40 per cent recorded in 2008 and 2009.

In addition, Kennedy says when the number of deer deaths over the winter months is combined with expected births, that could leave the overall deer population unchanged.

That would end several years of steady growth, he said.