The province's biggest fishing and hunting lobby group is expressing concern for northwestern Ontario’s deer herd.
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters is hearing from members worried about the deep cold and deep snow this winter, and how deer are coping in the bush.
OFAH senior biologist Mark Rickman said the federation generally doesn't support supplemental feeding, but this winter has been especially harsh. Rickman pointed out that it's up to the Ministry of Natural Resources to decide what's appropriate.
“The MNR is currently in their third time period of analysis, in respect to winter severity across the province,” he said.
“We haven't received those results yet. But the previous results indicated a fairly severe end to winter.”
During a normal winter, whitetail deer don't need help getting food, because they have evolved and adapted to the northern climate, Rickman said.
“The OFAH has always been supportive of emergency deer feeding, but neither the OFAH or the MNR really recommends supplemental feeding, mainly because in a normal winter whitetail deer don't need to be fed.”
Nevertheless, he said, there “definitely is a concern across the province for particular areas,” and why the MNR’s latest analysis of the situation is so important.
"We rely on the local, technical knowledge of MNR staff across the province to really determine when emergency feeding is required in a given area, and where best to dedicate the limited pot of funds that both the OFAH and the MNR — and various conservation groups — have to dedicate to this kind of project,” Rickman said.
In the City of Thunder Bay, feeding deer and other wildlife with the exception of birds is illegal under a bylaw.