New Brunswick

N.B. lost 20% of deer population during winter, according to estimates

About 20 per cent of New Brunswick’s herd population is estimated to have died over the winter. That’s about six per cent more than the long term average.

Harsh winter conditions leave deer more vulnerable to predation

New Brunswick is believed to have lost 20 per cent of its deer population this winter. (Marc-Antoine Mageau/Radio-Canada)

It was a hard winter for New Brunswick's deer population.

About 20 per cent of New Brunswick's herd is estimated to have died over the winter. That's about six per cent more than average.

Deer in the north of the province fared the worst, where about 30 per cent died.

Provincial deer biologist Joe Kennedy said a long period of deep snow is to blame.

He said deer can expend a tremendous amount of energy searching for food in harsh conditions.

"It's that energy loss through the deep, deep snows up to their shoulders where they literally use up all of their body fats," he said.

The depletion of energy makes deer more vulnerable to predation, Kennedy said.

"We know that whenever we have very harsh winters coyotes end up taking more deer," he said.

He said there are more reports of deer being taken by coyotes.

"The analysis that we're looking at though, is we see that on the most part, the coyotes are taking deer that are starving."

More deer killed by the roadside

Kennedy said more deer are getting killed by vehicles as the search for sustenance brings them to roadsides.

"We had seen this April and the April before … quite a spike in roadkill deer in certain areas and it was, I believe, all related to deer that were simply trying to get some grass in their bellies," he said.

Kennedy and his team use the deer killed on the road to assess their body conditions and fat percentages, which gives them an idea of their overall condition.

They also have stations to measure snow depth across the province. It allows them to track how deep it is in areas where deer might be wintering.

"So we have a pretty decent idea of actual mortalities in New Brunswick," he said.

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