DNR seeks private landowners to help improve deer wintering habitat in Iron and Baraga counties April 8, 2016 Michigan

Michigan Deer Population, Management News and Information Archive

DNR seeks private landowners to help improve deer wintering habitat in Iron and Baraga counties

Upcoming meetings to detail available cost-sharing programs

Private landowners interested in helping to 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 either of two meetings the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has scheduled for this month.

The first meeting, which will focus on private land ownership in Baraga County, will be from 6-8 p.m. (EDT) April 18 in the Rogge Conference Room at the Ford Center, located off U.S. 41 in Alberta.

The second session, regarding Iron County private land ownership, will be the following night from 6-8 p.m. (CDT) at the Crystal Falls Township Hall, located at 1384 U.S.-2 in Crystal Falls.

To avoid deep snow, deer migrate each winter throughout most of the U.P. to deer wintering complexesA map depicts where deer wintering complexes are located in the Upper Peninsula. – 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.

Baraga and Iron 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.

A color map shows the locations of deer wintering complexes in Baraga and Iron counties.The upcoming meetings in Baraga and Iron counties are an extension of those efforts. A similar meeting, on deer winter complexes in Gogebic and southern Ontonagon counties, was held March 3 in Marenisco and was attended by roughly 100 people.

“That meeting was a great success,” Willis said.

Recently, the DNR mailed 1,235 letters to landowners whose property lies near deer wintering complexes in Baraga and Iron counties.

The letters notify landowners of the April 18 or 19 meetings, 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 meetings, Steve Carson, of the U.P. Habitat Workgroup and a DNR wildlife biologist, 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.

Iron-Baraga Conservation District forester Roger Jaworski will introduce the Forestry Assistance Program and detail cost share programs available to private forestland owners to improve deer habitat.

Each of the meetings will conclude with a panel discussion featuring Carson, Willis, Jaworski, U.P. Habitat Workgroup wildlife biologist Jim Hammill and Weyerhaueser forester Jeff Joseph.

The Baraga County panel discussion will also feature DNR field operations manager Bill Scullon, while the Iron County panel will also include 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.

Given the initial success registered in Gogebic County, the initiative is now being spread across the U.P.

Check out management plans for the deer wintering complexes in Iron and Baraga counties.

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 Iron-Baraga Conservation District has a forester on staff available for a free site visit to your property. Contact Roger Jaworski 906-875-3765 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.

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