MNR refuses emergency status for Manitoulin Island deer herd

This deer, photographed by Dick Bowerman of South Baymouth, is seen climbing a snowbank in order to reach the cedar browse on his property, within town limits.

MANITOULIN—The Manitoulin Area Stewardship Council (MASC) and Deer Management Advisory Committee received official news Friday that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) would not be deeming Manitoulin Island’s deer herds to be in an emergency state, and therefore would not qualify the Island’s deer for emergency funding through the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

The Expositor spoke with committee member Ian Anderson of Kagawong following the MNR head office conference call Friday who explained that, despite the increase in snow and cold since the alarm was first raised in January, the MNR would not call for emergency feeding. The snow, he explained, now ranges from 24 inches to more than 36 inches on the south shore of Manitoulin.

“The probability of losing deer ranges from 20 to 40 percent, depending on where on Manitoulin,” Mr. Anderson explained, “and there’s an increasing probability that we will lose some deer.”

The direction received from the MNR, he continued, is to not feed the deer, to let nature take its course “and that’s just not palatable to me.”

“The MNR will not declare emergency feeding, so what we’re left doing is to continue breaking trails to help them get to their food source as well as supplementary feeding—cutting available browse on properties that contain large populations of deer,” Mr. Anderson continued. “We’re not advocating knocking down big trees, but the preferred method is to get some pruning equipment and prune available browse that’s over six feet.” (Deer can comfortably reach six feet.)

He explained that browse should be pruned to the ground level as often as an individual can throughout the remainder of the winter.

Sue Meert, who was recently hired on as the deer save project manager through MASC funding, explained that the response to the callout for trail breaking and supplementary feeding has been positive but the more property owners that grant permission for trail breaking, the better. Ms. Meert can be contacted through email at manitoulindeersave@gmail.com or by phone at 705-859-1187.

Islanders are also encouraged to check out the 15 minute video on proper deer feeding techniques on the MASC website, www.manitoulinsteward.org, and click on the red button on the right titled ‘How to Save Deer Video.’

The video gives step-by-step instruction on proper deer feeding techniques, from cutting browse to emergency feeding. Mr. Anderson warns that it is better to not feed than to start and stop once the deer become reliant on human help. Emergency feeding can be very costly, as the grain-to-browse ratio becomes increased each week until eventually entire bags of grain are left out for the feeding deer.

The MNR recently took a three-hour helicopter surveillance trip over areas of the LaCloche region, which has deer herds in even greater peril than on Manitoulin. The MNR did find, however, large numbers of deer in area deer yards.

Alicia McCutcheon