Utah’s wildlife impacted by historic snowfall

Apr 20, 2023, 3:00 PM

As summer approaches and gardens begin blooming, Utah's wildlife is soon to follow. Dax Mangus, Big...

In the winter, deer visit lower elevation areas where food is a little easier to find. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

(Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

SALT LAKE CITY  —  Utah’s record-breaking snowfall brought changes to Utah’s wildlife.

The deep snow in northern Utah has been hard for the mule deer and different grouse and waterfowl species. However, the moisture has been a positive thing for Utah’s fish and for southern Utah’s deer.

Negative effects of Utah’s historic snowfall

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Public Information Officer Faith Heaton Jolley said the depth of this year’s snow made food scarce for mule deer in northern Utah.

“Currently we are projecting a 70% loss of adult deer and a 90% fawn loss in one [hunting area] unit of northern Utah,” Jolley said.. 

The DWR implemented emergency feeding this winter in a number of counties in northern Utah. Also with that, there were restrictions for shed antler hunting to reduce the number of disturbances for the deer. In addition, the DWR has extended some closures of wildlife management areas until the end of April, according to Jolley.

Jolley also said that the DWR has received reports from their biologists that the mating season for upland game, such as grouse and pheasants, has been delayed. “Typically, late March and early April the sage grouse species will be out doing their normal mating.” said Jolley, “but this year, due to the snowpack that has been delayed.”

She added that that is too early to know if that will affect their population this year, but that is something they have been concerned about and watching. 

Water is helping some of Utah’s wildlife

“Deer herds are doing really well in southern Utah,” said Jolley. “We are seeing a higher survival rate than normal.”

With the moisture that the southern part of the state has received, plants and vegetation are greening up earlier. The melting snow has aided in giving the deer more water and green food to eat. 

Additionally, the more water, the better for Utah’s fish and other aquatic species. Sometimes, when we have flooding and landslides it can muddy up the waters and make it hard for the fish, but this year they haven’t had any reports of that, according to Jolley. Things are looking much better for the fish in our state as we come out of the drought.

Overall, this winter has had both positive and negative effects on the wildlife around Utah. As time goes on we will better know how to help out those species that are waning and adjust to the needs of those animals. 

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Utah’s wildlife impacted by historic snowfall