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Thread: Deer in the snow

  1. #1

    Deer in the snow

    How well are sika likely to cope with a lot of snow at this time of year?

    I ask because in one area I shoot, mostly commercial sitka spruce forestry, the deer usually appear back in the forestry once the grass starts growing. My guess is that the forestry just doesn't have the feeding to support them in winter and as far as I've seen there has been no growth in the grass worth talking about yet. In this part of the world I don't have much experience of significant snow and how it impacts upon the deer and this is specially true of this time of year. On a positive note the last hind I shot had a lot of fat on her so I'm hopeful that will help.

    At the minute the area has about 6 foot of snow with around 15 foot in drifts, people are coming and going from their houses via the upstairs windows.

    I imagine that deer actually in the forest during the snow might have avoided the worst of the drifts etc. but have no idea if they will get any feeding and I am also not sure if deer outside of the forest area will tend to move into the forest or will they try to head for lower ground?

    ​Any thoughts and experiences gratefully received as anything beyond a few inches of snow for more than a few days is new to me.
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  2. #2
    I think they will survive well but as with everything it will be the survival of the fittest, sika being though primarily grazers when things get tough are very adaptable in their feeding, sitka needles bark or other browse will all be taken if it gets extreme. Though I am far from being any great authority on the subject. What you will find I think their behaviour will vary according to location ie what sika do where I am may well be totally different with sika in your area.

  3. #3
    Butchered a pricket a few nights ago, still lots of fat round the kidneys. The hind quarters were a bit lean compared to the previous few this winter.

    I would say they are still in good nick, but this long winter is starting to take its toll.

    Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you......

  4. #4
    That is sort of what is worrying me Brian, plus in the Glens we have a lot of snow and I don't see how the deer can easily move around in 6 foot plus of snow. It seems to be hitting the sheep hard but the deer have the advantage of being able to move more easily if they can get moving before the snow gets too deep. I also think that because of the lack of grass they were on lower ground and so might have done OK when the snow hit, I'm not sure whether shelter or feeding is the more critical element to survival under these conditions. I know in moderate snow it seems to move them into the forestry but I've never seen anything like what we have at the minute.

    I hope all is OK with you, and that you have avoided the worst of the snow. Hopefully if you still have the cattle in the shed you will have no losses though it will be tough to feed them in there.
    For self catering accommodation on the Isle of Lewis please visit:

  5. #5
    Philip, all good here. No snow at all. Ten miles north, or ten miles east and thee is 3 or 4 feet of the stuff. Cattle are all indoors, it really needs to warm up and we need fresh grass right now, it is going to be weeks yet.

    Off stalking tomorrow.

    Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you......

  6. #6
    Good luck tomorrow Brian, with work plus I'll be in the Hebrides for a while it looks like I might not get many more days this season but fingers crossed if reasonable numbers of deer move back in soon I might manage a wee spiker before we finish. Fermanagh is looking a much better bet!

    The way the forecast is we might not have much growth before the end of April. Last year the grass was growing by the middle of February, amazing the difference a year makes.
    For self catering accommodation on the Isle of Lewis please visit:

  7. #7
    Of all the deer I think Sika will cope the best with the conditions. They will hole up under cover and happy to eat a wide variety of vegetation, bark & needles. Also larger fat reserves will help them through, I'm sure they have survived worse winters than this.

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