Those advocating for a smaller deer herd in northwestern Ontario may get their wish, thanks to Mother Nature.
Former Ministry of Natural Resources biologist Bruce Ranta predicts a significant decline in the deer population this year, because of weather conditions.
“There's gonna be substantial mortality,” he said.
“It could be anywhere from half the deer herd to 80 per cent or more of the herd[that] could not make it through this winter.”
The deep snow may contribute more to the mortality rate than this season's deep cold, he said.
"There used to be thinking that cold with deep snow made the problem much worse. But the recent thinking is that it's the deep snow that's the real big issue.”
He said adult males and young deer are the most susceptible.
“Mature bucks get hit the hardest, along with fawns — both ends of the age spectrum. The males go into the winter in relatively poor condition because of the rigours of the rut.”
The conditions this winter have made it easier for wolves to zero in on weaker deer, he added.
Ranta said last winter was hard on the deer herd too.
“When you have two in a row… all the data shows that things are really hard on the deer."
It may be time to “rethink” the deer management strategy and offer them more protection in the coming year, Ranta said.
"With the big uptake of the antlerless deer tags [issued] in some areas, there was quite a substantial number of deer taken,” he said.
“Certainly, in some areas, it had its desired effect — which was to let people harvest more animals and reduce the size of the herd," said Ranta."After this winter … maybe it's time to give the deer a little bit of protection, because I think there's going to be a real dearth of deer."