This past winter was anything but pleasant, not only for humans, but also the deer population. The snow just seemed to linger on and on, with one storm after another.

The whitetail deer is the species most prevalent in our area. Theirs is a hardy soul that can take some very brutal winters but they have their breaking point, too. This past winter put the deer to the test with the arrival of snow early on and with the snow pack at times reaching well over 30 inches. This, with a rain storm or two that placed a layer of ice between the snow piles, made it very difficult for deer to browse.

Deer biologist John McDonald told me the deer can withstand snow depths well up to 18 inches. The deer have a thick layer of fat reserve on their backs that allow them to withstand deep snow and cold such as this. However, the deeper the snow and the longer it lasts, the more danger the deer are in. A deep snow pack greater than 45 days is considered very dangerous to the whitetail.

We had a great acorn or mast crop last fall that allowed the deer to eat very well and add extra fat to their bodies. They were going to need it to get through the winter we had. The 45 days was definitely met and was more like 65 days with snow over 24 inches. I know in my yard it was greater than 2 feet for over two months, and at times I was wondering where I was going to put the next storm.

Deer had to push through this to walk to food and then paw their way to the ground, or in some cases they would eat the buds off the trees, making for easy pickings. One woman I spoke with from Groton said she had up to six deer every morning around her house eating her ornamentals because there was just so much snow.

Ice in the layers of snow presented a huge problem for the deer as predators took deadly aim. Coyotes could run on top of the snow and ice, whereas deer’s sharp hooves break through the crust, making them easy prey. Additionally, the local canine population would run deer and maybe not catch them but would run them enough as to burn out much of their needed fat reserves.

Why am I telling you this? Well, we lost a few deer this winter to the above. Right now, the female deer are having their fawns. They started producing them last week and will continue for another 10 days or so. There will be another small burst of fawns being born at the end of June. It’s just as important today as it was during the winter to keep your dogs in the house or on a leash. There is a state-wide leash law anyway, but many people don’t know this or ignore this law.

A newly born fawn weighs only about 8 pounds and is not going to move a muscle for several days. The doe, who may have twins, will deliver them in separate places and always be nearby. She will visit the little ones several times a day and feed them. After a week or so, the fawn will be strong enough to get up and follow mother around. The youngster will grow faster than most animals on this earth and in just a few short months will weigh over 70 pounds. Many of these will even be able to breed come November.

So take the precautions needed for the next few weeks and soon you will be seeing the spotted fawns with their mothers in our countryside fields once again.

Bill Biswanger can be emailed at