Hank Shelley

Column: Dempsters’s bread and deer survival

The effects of this winter are beginning to take a toll on our birds and wildlife. There’s very little food and forage, due mostly to deep snow and cold conditions.

For one lucky Sicamous Steller’s jay, perched on the yellow line on the Trans-Canada Highway,(by the Husky truck stop) with approaching semi’s last Saturday, Gwenith Stead, jumped from her vehicle grabbed the jay, wrapped it in warm blanket in the back seat and got it home.

Warming the bird by the heater, she placed a small bowl of water in its box, buttered a slice of 12 -grain, then fed it tiny pieces. Once warmed up, it drank a lot of water as it was very dehydrated.

Next day, out the door, letting it hop onto a nearby cedar tree, three more Steller’s jays, showed up at the front door, in support of their buddy wanting a few buttered slices of 12-grain Dempster’s.

Our deer are having it tough, and of course feeding hay or pellets to even local animals around silage pits or barns, residences, doesn’t bode well for the animals. Over winter, survival depends on build up fat stores from feeding on berries and leaves. Deer are well adapted to winter conditions, with a thick winter coat, Too, they reduce their metabolic rate, reduce food consumption and make prolonged use of bed sites from wind and snow. Their digestive system adapts to a coarse diet, low in nutrients.

Deer are ruminants, having a tummy with four compartments. The rumen is the largest, breaking down rough forage, containing bacteria, protozoa and components of vegetation etc. Feeding deer, alters the function of the rumen. Readily digestive food, such as grain or alfalfa can draw fluid into the rumen from the body, producing an acid into the rumen, absorbed into the bloodstream. This causes acidosis, slowly killing the animal. Deer, have evolved to withstand harsh winters,which tend to remove the weak or sick from the herd. Even in winters of high mortality, the animals can rebound, due to their high reproductive and pregnancy rates. At present, the unfortunate aspect, is urban sprawl, housing, vineyards, orchards, development and dogs on what was crucial winter range.

A news clip last week, showing mule deer in Kelowna orchards, is a prime example. The animals are also there for protection from coyotes, wolves and cougars.

Those folks working in the Ministry of Environment, and knowing we have high mortality in our deer herds from climate change conditions and large predator populations, have seen fit to reduce the provincial bag limit on deer to two from three.

Let’s hope spring is just around the corner, not only for our fur and feathered friends, out there but our sore muscles from shoveling!

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