Wildlife managers urge outdoor enthusiasts to consider where they recreate during North Dakota’s leanest months to spare already stressed animals that are simply trying to survive the snow and cold.
This advice is especially true this winter as wildlife habitat and available food sources are limited because ongoing drought conditions leading up to winter nearly crippled the development of vegetation that many animals rely on to survive.
“People in North Dakota want to have fun in winter because we have four or five months of it, which means we’ve got a lot of people out shed hunting, riding snowmobiles and track machines, snowshoes, those kinds of things,” said Casey Anderson, North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife division chief. “It’s important, the tougher the winter is, that people are cognizant about where wildlife are and really view wildlife from a distance.
“That means wait to shed hunt until later in the spring so that you’re not pushing deer in and out of thermal cover where they’re trying to just conserve energy,” he added. “You push them out into the open, then they get exposed to the elements a lot more and it adds further stress. Also, people need to realize if they’re out on a snowmobile or a machine and are pushing wildlife, chasing wildlife, that’s actually an illegal activity in North Dakota as far as harassment of wildlife is concerned.”
Anderson said it’s common for snowmobilers and others to ride in areas where snow has accumulated, such as near shelterbelts and other wooded habitat.
“Those areas can be fun to ride because that’s where the drifts are, but people also have to realize that there could be deer or other wildlife within those areas that are using that for thermal cover and a windbreak. And so, every time you push them out, it increases the amount of energy they expend to survive the next day.”
These same warnings, for shed hunters and others, also apply on Game and Fish Department owned or operated wildlife management areas where many animals gather to weather the winter months.