Michigan DNR Seeks Landowners Interested in Improving Western Deer Wintering Habitats

March 3 meeting in Marenisco to detail available cost-sharing programs

Michigan DNR Seeks Private Landowners Interested in Improving Western Upper Peninsula Deer Wintering Habitat
Michigan DNR Seeks Private Landowners Interested in Improving Western Upper Peninsula Deer Wintering Habitat
Michigan DNR
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Lansing, MI -(AmmoLand.com)- Private landowners interested in helping maintain or improve Upper Peninsula deer wintering habitat can learn more about the subject, and cost-share programs available to aid in those efforts, at a March 3 meeting the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has scheduled in Gogebic County.

The session will be from 6-8 p.m. CST at the Marenisco Township Hall, located at 314 Hall Street in Marenisco. To avoid deep snow, deer migrate each winter throughout most of the U.P. to deer wintering complexes – often called deer yards – containing dense canopies of conifer trees, especially cedar and hemlock.

This important conifer shelter reduces snow depth and allows deer to move over connected snow-packed trails. These trail systems provide access to food and assist deer in evading predators.

Gogebic and southern Ontonagon counties contain some of the region’s deer wintering complexes. The past three severe winters and subsequent decline in deer numbers have raised concerns about habitat conditions in these complexes, especially winter shelter.

To help improve habitat conditions for deer, the DNR needs help from private landowners. Of the 10.6 million acres of land in the U.P., roughly 20 percent is managed by the state.

“Predation, hunter harvest and winter severity all contribute to deer population fluctuations; however, winter habitat quality is the most important factor influencing deer population trends,” said Gary Willis, west U.P. DNR service forester. “Improving winter habitat is an action in which all landowners can make a contribution.”

In the U.P., where deer have to migrate to survive winter, they gather on about 30 percent of their range. The U.P. Habitat Workgroup, which is composed of natural resource professionals, private landowners and sportsmen’s groups, has been working for several months toward increased habitat improvements in deer wintering complexes.

Western Upper Peninsula Wintering Complexes
Western Upper Peninsula Wintering Complexes

The March 3 meeting is an extension of those efforts.

Recently, the DNR mailed more than 500 letters to landowners whose property lies inside the boundaries, or within 1 mile, of the Lake Gogebic and Gogebic County deer wintering complexes.

The letters notify landowners of the March 3 meeting, invite them to attend to learn more about habitat improvement opportunities and what they can do on their properties to aid deer populations.

At the meeting, DNR wildlife biologist Steve Carson will provide an introduction to deer wintering complex management plans, a general overview of deer winter range in the U.P. and general forest management guidelines.

Willis will discuss the Forest Stewardship Program.

Gogebic County Conservation District forester Cory Howes will introduce the Forestry Assistance Program andDeer wintering complexes mapped in the western Upper Peninsula detail cost share programs available to private forestland owners to improve deer habitat.

The meeting will conclude with a panel discussion featuring Carson, Howes, DNR field operations manager Bill Scullon, DNR wildlife biologist Robert Doepker and U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist Brian Bogaczyk.

“My goal, in addition to making folks aware of the critical need to retain conifer stands in deer wintering complexes, is to ultimately reach out to private landowners in ways that have not been used before to encourage them to work with a resource professional to first obtain a forest management plan and follow up with management plan implementation,” Willis said.

The initiative is expected to spread wider within the region, depending on the success of these initial efforts in the western U.P.

“Gogebic County is the test,” Willis said. “We plan on implementing this throughout the U.P. if we’re successful in Gogebic. Next would be Iron and Baraga counties.”

Check out management plans for the deer wintering complexes in Gogebic County.

For more information on various cost share programs that can help offset the cost of resource management plan preparation, contact Gary Willis at the DNR Baraga office at 906-353-6651, ext 122.

The Gogebic Conservation District has a forester on staff available for a free site visit to your property. Contact Cory Howes to help you decide if there are financial assistance programs that can help you improve your deer wintering habitat.

Find out more information about the U.P. Habitat Workgroup. Contact Steve Carson at 906-563-9247.

About the Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.

For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.