Tuesday, February 15, 2011

As Winter Relaxes Its' Icy Grip, Wildlife Sightings Increase

There is still well over a month to go before winter officially ends, yet a change is in the air as Pennsylvania enjoys a winter thaw.  Even in years with a heavy snow cover and bitter cold, it is quite common for the situation to be much improved by late February or early March.  A period of relatively warm, beautiful weather is often followed by a heavy snow storm, but now as the sun moves further north and the days are longer, snow does not linger as long.

Wildlife sightings may dramatically increase as herds of elk and deer tend to congregate in areas where the sun has melted the snow cover away, exposing desirable food sources such as the food plot below located on a reclaimed area of SGL 311 in Elk County.

Bare Areas Appear As The Snow Cover Recedes
Bull Elk Sparring In The Early Morning Sun

Many are anxiously awaiting the shedding of the elk's antlers, and some are expecting them to fall off any day now.  While there may be a slim possibility of this, there is little likelihood of finding antlers until the end of February, and I have seen many large bulls still carrying antlers at the end of the first week in March.  In most cases, the large bulls loose their antlers first, with the smaller bulls loosing them later.  It is common to see large bulls with significant new antler growth, and raghorns still carrying last year's antlers.

Unlike elk, whitetail deer in Pennsylvania shed their antlers in a period ranging from December to April, but the great majority have lost them by early February.

Most PA Bucks Have Shed Their Antlers By Early February
Regardless of one's particular field of specific interest, be it photography, hiking, shed hunting, etc., these periods when winter relaxes its' icy grip are great times to be afield.

In Winter, Animals Prefer Sheltered Areas Exposed To The Rays Of The Sun
Soon the tempo will pick up even more as snow geese and tundra swans arrive, to be followed shortly by other species of waterfowl.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill


Kritter Keeper at Farm Tails said...

oh how i love your photos willard! i cannot imagine a huge set of elk antlers lying around our fields. bossy boy dropped his before he died which was very early for him as he usually doesnt shed them until april. they all shed early this year. i wish i could find them but so far have found none despite looking very hard. when i ride blue the vantage point is much better. tell us if you find any!

Ruth Hiebert said...

THose warmer temps are great for all,both people and animals.

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Andora said...

Absolutely Beautiful!!!!

Peggy said...

I get so excited at this time of year! Great post Willard!

Anonymous said...

We still have a lot of snow pack in this part of PA. Today and the next few days we expect warmer temperatures. The snow has started to melt. I've been seeing deer out, even in places where the snow pack is still deep. People have been throwing corn and other things out for the deer to feed on.

Willard said...

Thanks for the report, Linda. We didn't get nearly as much snow as you did this year, and ours is almost gone now. Not quite sure how much is left on Winslow Hill now, but it is probably more like your area.

FAB said...

Super shots Willard. We are all waiting for the hoped for increase in temperatures.

V.L. Locey said...

Superb shots Willard! It is so nice to see some ground beginning to peek out here and there here in PA.

Anonymous said...

Wow spectacular pictures. Have enjoyed some wonderful views myself locally but these are fantastic.
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Unknown said...

Great pictures to go along with a good narrative!