These curious deer are just a few of the estimated 300 head that have taken up residence on the Gerry Person farm southeast of Britton. Deep snow has forced the animals to seek food from area farmers. Any farmers having issues are urged to contact GFP officials.
Deer Struggling; Causing Issues For Producers
Hundreds of deer in northeast South Dakota are in a battle for survival, and in the process area producers are also becoming victims.
This winter’s extended period of cold and heavy snow has forced deer to look for alternative food sources, and one of the easiest places to find that food is livestock feeding areas.
Gerry Person, who farms and raises livestock about seven miles southeast of Britton, estimates that up to 300 deer have taken up residence on his farmstead. Two large herds moved in about seven weeks ago and can be seen in just about every tree belt located anywhere near his livestock feed sources.
“In all the years I’ve been here I haven’t seen deer populations like this winter,” said Person. “Every day I see 25-50 in each of my feed bunks.”
Person isn’t alone. Marshall County Conservation Officer Casey Dowler said that he is dealing with eight deer complaints in the county right now where the animals are getting into feed stuffs and alfalfa hay.
“In every area that we know about we are assisting landowners in some form,” said Dowler. “We put up panels to help alleviate the problem or do what we call intercept feeding where we put out a bale that helps keep the deer out of the feedstuffs.”
Person said the alfalfa bales do help.
“The GFP put out two bales two weeks ago and planned to put out two more this week, and that does take a lot of pressure off my yard,” noted Person. “But as soon as I leave the farm the deer just boil in.”
Person said he is not as frustrated with the situation now as he was earlier in the winter.
“It’s just nature, and it’s been a bearcat of a winter. The deer are already here, and the best I can do is try to make them eat where I want them to eat.”
He has piled bales in front of feed and also used panels and tires to discourage deer from feeding in certain areas. Person said deer prefer corn, followed by alfalfa, and then corn silage.
“They don’t eat a lot but they waste more than they eat.”
Person also has concerns about the possibility of disease. Deer are prone to getting sick when they are stressed or do not have enough food. That disease can be spread to livestock.
“Tuberculosis is what I’m most concerned about. But the GFP said that disease shouldn’t be a problem, and I haven’t seen signs of anything yet.”
Dowler said this winter will likely rival the one in 2011 that saw over 100 inches of snow and was tough on the deer population. But he also said that the animals can endure a lot.
“It’s been an extremely tough winter on wildlife and you hate to see animals out there suffering, but they are absolutely built for this.”
Dowler said he does expect some winter mortality, however.
“It’s inevitable we are going to have some mortality but that’s kind of how the deer have evolved. It’s survival of the fittest.”
Dowler said he has not seen any dead deer yet but urged anyone finding dead animals to let him know by calling 605-881-3775. He also encouraged any landowners having deer issues to contact him.
“It’s tough to say how many deer are out there, but there are quite a few,” noted Dowler. “It almost seems like every deer in the county is at one of the eight complaint sites. But landowners in the county are extremely tolerant of deer. A lot of them are sportsmen and sportswomen and like to see the deer around.”
Person wondered if the GFP should allow more deer hunting licenses in the county to help control the population. Just one of four hunters who applied for licenses last season that would have hunted on his land was drawn for the license.
“The deer population is still on the rebound from when it was hit hard during the winter of 2011-2012 but it is starting to come back up into a good area,” said Dowler. “Now we’ll be looking at what this winter has done, and it’s going to be hard to try and figure out the deer tags for the county. That’s one reason we need to hear from the public if they find dead animals so we can come out and investigate.”