‘One of coldest and snowiest winters in decades’ took heavy toll on wildlife in Western U. S.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wildlife suffered higher than normal losses this winter in severe weather across the western United States, where the toll included the deaths of all known fawns in one Wyoming deer herd and dozens of endangered bighorn sheep in California.
Wildlife managers in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Washington also reported higher losses of animals in the wake of one of the coldest and snowiest winters in decades. Parts of the Rockies saw snowfall as late as mid-June.
“This year we kind of had all the factors that we don’t want — we had deep snow, we had periods of fairly cold weather, subzero, and then we also had some crusting on top of that snow,” said Roger Phillips, spokesman for the Idaho Fish and Game Department.
Wildlife managers have been assessing the damage using radio collars and surveys of herds following a winter in which many parts of the West recorded record snowfall, including places where deer, pronghorn antelope and elk migrate each fall to escape the harsher mountain winters. Prolonged snow cover on winter grounds made it difficult for wildlife to find food, and spells of bitter cold made matters worse for the weakened animals by hardening the snow.
Mule deer in several Rocky Mountain states and elk in eastern Washington were hit hard. Wyoming was expecting above-normal losses among antelope as well, although it didn’t have an accurate accounting yet.