Wildlife weathering the winter

On the Outdoors

January 25, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The rains that have brought about heavy runoff and snow melt over the past week to 10 days have caused multiple problems for humans, flooding, temporary relocation and, in a some cases, death.

But while the weather has been tough to handle for many people, the wildlife from the wooded mountains of Western Maryland to the agricultural fields of the Eastern Shore is holding up well.

In Western Maryland, where the snow remains deep, DNR biologist Tom Mathews said the deer herd is in good shape and should pass through the cold months without major problems -- unless there is an extended and increasingly severe winter.

Throughout the fall, deer add 20 percent or more to their body weight in preparation for winter, and use the body reserves to carry them through periods when feed is poor or their movements are limited by heavy snow cover.

Wild turkeys also can be affected by prolonged periods of severe cold, but in Maryland usually are able to pass the hardest parts of winter by staying in their roosts, well sheltered within conifers.

Biologists estimate that turkeys can stay up in trees for as many as 10 days without food.

Squirrels, of course, cache food supplies for winter and will hold over through the cold months largely without incident. Rabbits are able to minimize their movements and metabolism and, when the weather closes in, will stay in their dens.

Ducks will move farther south to avoid a cold snap and to find feed, their mobility being the key to good survival rates.

Canada geese, which have been given a reprieve from hunting pressure in the Atlantic Flyway this year, also should have no problems passing into the spring, when they will return to northern Quebec to nest.

Officials at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Rock Hall and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge west of Cambridge say that flocks of geese there are prospering on corn crops left standing expressly to get them through the winter.

Songbirds, however, could use a little help, especially in areas where the snow and ice cover is heavy and the ground surface does not thaw on the occasional warm days.

Bird feed placed in feeders or scattered in open areas will help them through the winter.

Fishing seminar

A few tickets remain for the Salt Water Sportsman sportfishing seminar at Stamp Union on the University of Maryland campus in College Park on Saturday.

The seminar, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., specializes in inshore and offshore fishing, with an emphasis on bluefish and rockfish.

Ticket and text cost $35, and tickets may be purchased by phone by calling (800) 448-7360.

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