Despite deep snow, deer numbers strong heading into spring

ASHLAND, Maine - Despite the deepest snow pack in 35 years, County deer are doing surprisingly well. Kathy McCarty met with a wildlife biologist who says the numbers are strong going into spring.

The deer population is holding steady, making it through a severe winter that brought more than 13 feet of snow to The County. Wildlife Biologist Shawn Haskell says it has a lot to do with snow depth and sinking depth - something his department tracks at four different winter severity locations in Aroostook County.

"We measure the snow under cover - under good, softwood cover, and out in the open, and also sinking depths. And we do that from mid-December - early December through mid-April. And that's, you know, that's part of our deer management program."

Haskell says the record snowfall we had through February was tough on the deer. To compensate, more deer reside in towns at very high densities - sometimes as many as 200 per square mile.

"Very high densities, for five months - this winter's probably going to be six months. They started coming to towns in mid-November this year. Usually it's early December; it was mid-November this year."

Being at high density allows the animals to make trails with ease.

"They don't move around a lot, but they can make trails real quick after a snow, and that helps 'em get around and save energy."

However, being close to more populated areas can be a problem, especially for motorists.

"Concentrate on the road, concentrate on the shoulders. The other thing I would say is know what's behind you. I had to brake for three deer here right in Ashland this morning, in the dark. Last time I came down that road, I came around a corner and I had to lock on my brakes to avoid hitting a deer, and the only way to do that safely is to know that nobody's behind you."

I'll have more with Haskell on why more deer are wintering in towns each season, along with which areas are especially hazardous for motorists on a future edition.