Good Forestry in the Granite State:
Recommended Voluntary Forest Management Practices for New Hampshire
Table of Contents >> 6.8 Beaver-Created Openings << 6.9 Deer Wintering Areas >> 6.10 Woodland Raptor Nest Sites

6.9 DEER WINTERING AREAS

BACKGROUND

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.

OBJECTIVE

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.

CONSIDERATIONS

RECOMMENDED PRACTICES

General recommendations for managing DWAs

Forest-Type Specifics

CROSS REFERENCES

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.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Boer, A.H. 1978. Management of deer wintering areas in New Brunswick. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 6(4): 200-205.

Gill, J. D. 1957. Review of deer yard management. Bulletin No. 5. Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Augusta, Maine.

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. http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife_Journal/WJ_sample_stories/WJ_f01_More_Harm.pdf Accessed March 11, 2010.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. 2000. Significant wildlife habitat technical guide. OMNR, Queens Printer for Ontario, Toronto, Canada. 139 p.

Pekins, P. J., and M. D. Tarr. 2009. A critical analysis of the winter ecology of white-tailed deer and management of spruce-fir deer wintering areas with reference to northern Maine. Cooperative Forestry Research Unit. Res. Rep. RR-08-02. Orono, Maine. 154 p.

Pratte, J. J. 2009. Guidelines for managing deer wintering areas in northern, western and eastern Maine. Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/species/pdfs/DWA_Guidelines_2.4.10.pdf Accessed June 8, 2010.

Reay, R.S. 1985. Compatibility of Timber Management and Wintering Deer in Hemlock Stands. In proceedings of joint conference of New England Chapter of the Society of American Foresters, Maine Chapter of the Wildlife Society, and Atlantic International Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, Portland, Maine.

Reay, R.S, D.W. Blodgett, B.S. Burns, S.J. Weber, and T. Frey. 1990. Management Guide for Deer-Wintering Areas in Vermont. Vermont Dept. of Forests, Parks and Recreation, and Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. 35 p.

Telfer, E.S. 1978. Silviculture in Eastern Deer Yards. For. Chron. 54: 203-208.

Tubbs, C.H. 1978. How to Manage Eastern Hemlock in the Lakes States. USDA For. Serv. Pub. North Central Forest Experiment Station. 2 p.

Voigt, D. R., J.D. Broadfoot, and J.A. Baker. 1997. Forest management guidelines for the provision of white-tailed deer habitat (version 1.0). Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Queen’s Printer for Ontario, Toronto, Canada. 33 p.

6.8 Beaver-Created Openings << 6.9 Deer Wintering Areas >> 6.10 Woodland Raptor Nest Sites

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