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Mild winters are helpful for some animals but not for others

snowshoe hare.jpg
Tim Rains

It’s hard for a white snowshoe hare to camouflage when there’s a brown background. And with this year’s winter, there’s a lot of brown.

While some animals—like deer—prefer a light covering of snow or none at all, others like the snowshoe hare rely on it.

Christopher Hoving is a wildlife adaptation specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. Climate change has been changing snowfall patterns, so he said agencies have been focusing on habitat management to help species who need the winter to survive.

“We strategically pick areas where we know there’s snowshoe hare populations and try to maintain habitat for those species," he said. "So we’ll cutdown forest and allow it to regenerate and dig brush when the forest is very young and the trees haven’t gotten very tall."

Hoving said parasitic infections and ticks can also become more prevalent in a warm winter.

"You can have a larger tick load, especially on deer. It’s not as big a problem with deer as, say, moose," he said. "The number of ticks can really get to the point where it’s affecting their calorie balance and their ability to survive.

Landowners can keep brush on the ground and not clear out gardens so hares and rodents can be safe in the winter, Hoving said. The DNR has been slowly adjusting hunting seasons to match the changing seasons.

Ben Jodway is an intern, serving as a reporter for WCMU Public Media and the Pioneer in Big Rapids. He has covered Indigenous communities and political extremism in Michigan.