Wildlife managers urge outdoor enthusiasts to consider where they recreate during North Dakota’s leanest months to spare already stressed animals simply trying to survive the elements.
While this advice is true during any Northern Plains winter, it hits this year with some significance considering winter arrived in mid-November with purpose and no sign of when it will end.
State Game and Fish Department managers understand North Dakotans want to get outdoors and have fun in winter. Even so, the tougher the winter is, it is important that people riding snowmobiles, shed hunting, cross-country skiing or doing whatever are cognizant about where wildlife are and to view them from a distance.
That means waiting to shed hunt until later in the spring so that you're not pushing deer in and out of thermal cover where they're trying to just conserve energy. Animals forced into the open are exposed to the elements a lot more, which adds further stress. Also, people need to realize that harassing wildlife from snowmobiles or other machines is illegal in North Dakota.
It’s common for snowmobilers and others to ride in areas where snow has accumulated, such as near shelterbelts and other wooded habitat because that's where the drifts are, but people also must realize there could be deer or other wildlife within those areas to get out of the weather. So, every time animals are pushed from those areas, it increases the amount of energy they expend to survive the next day.
These same warnings, for shed hunters, skiers and others, also apply on Game and Fish Department owned or operated wildlife management areas where many animals gather to weather the winter months.