Good Forestry in the Granite State: Recommended Voluntary Forest Management Practices for New Hampshire
Good Forestry in the Granite State:
Recommended Voluntary Forest Management Practices for New Hampshire



White-tailed deer in New Hampshire live near the northern limit of their geographic range. Because of severe winters, deer require special habitats to survive.

The winter survival of white-tailed deer is related to their ability to occupy “wintering areas” when deep snow limits food availability and deer mobility. Special habitat characteristics of deer wintering areas allow deer to maximize their daily food intake and minimize the amount of energy they expend to move, keep warm, and avoid predators.

Deer wintering areas (DWAs) consist of two basic habitat components:
(1) The core shelter area—dense, mature softwood that provides cover, improving the deers' ability to move in the snow.
(2) Other habitats that provide accessible forage within or adjacent to the core area. These habitats might be hardwood stands, mixed hardwood-softwood stands, or nonforest habitats such as fields or wetlands.

The term “deer wintering area” refers to the entire area deer occupy during winter, not just the dense-softwood cover—though the cover is critical and often the most difficult component to establish and maintain.

Most DWAs occur at elevations below 2,000 feet in lowland softwood stands such as spruce-fir and northern white cedar in the north, or eastern hemlock in the south. DWAs are often associated with watercourses and riparian areas, since these forest types grow there. Only about 3 percent of New Hampshire's land base meets the habitat requirements for deer wintering.

Deer use of wintering areas varies within and between winters, based mainly on differences in snow depth. Deer move into wintering areas when snow depth exceeds 10 to 12 inches, and they primarily use the core shelter area when snow depth exceeds 16 to 20 inches. During mild winters deer may range far from softwood shelter or not use a wintering area at all. Some wintering areas aren't used annually by deer, but these habitats are still critical when winter conditions are severe.

In northern New Hampshire, it isn't uncommon for some deer to travel more than 20 miles between the habitat they use in autumn and the DWA they use each year. Northern deer generally “yard” in large numbers and remain within or close to the cover provided by extensive softwood stands all winter long.

In southern New Hampshire, where winter conditions are less severe, deer often make short-distance movements during winter storms or periods of severe cold. They find refuge in small stands or patches of dense softwood cover near or within the habitat they use during autumn. They often don't yard in the same numbers or for the same length of time as deer in the north. As a result, DWAs in the north are often large, characterized by softwood stands exceeding 100 acres, while those in the south are often much smaller. Softwood stands covering less than a few acres provide temporary cover.


Manage existing deer wintering areas to provide deer with functional shelter, softwood travel lanes to access food and escape predators, and a continuous supply of accessible browse.



General recommendations for managing DWAs

Forest-Type Specifics


2.1 New Hampshire Forest Types; 2.2 Forest Structure; 2.3 Regeneration Methods; 2.4 Managing for High-Value Trees; 3.1 Timber Harvesting Systems; 4.2 Wetlands; 4.3 Forest Management in Riparian Areas; 6.4 Overstory Inclusions; 6.5 Permanent Openings; 6.6 Temporary Openings Created by Forest Management.


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New Brunswick Dept. of Natural Resources. 2002. Standards and guidelines for management of deer wintering areas on Crown Land. NBDNR, Fredericton, N.B. 28 p.

N.H. Fish and Game Dept. 2001. More harm than good: Here’s why the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department urges you to not feed the deer. Accessed March 11, 2010.

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