Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Blizzard Makes Life Difficult For Wildlife

Gobbler Struts On Frosty Morning: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 500mm F 4
 In Southcentral Pennsylvania we usually have measurable snow fall before the rifle deer season is over and sometimes it is substantial, but this year there has been nothing but light snow squalls until late last week. Living was relatively easy for wildlife as the meadows were bare, deer could graze easily, and turkeys could move about freely. It was even common to see some of the birds strutting and gobbling, but this all changed when weather reports indicated a substantial blizzard was approaching on Friday, January 22nd and light snow began falling late that afternoon.

Snow Arrives: Canon 7D-24-105mm @95
By the time the snow ended on Saturday there was nearly 24 inches on the ground with much deeper drifts in spots.  It was not until Sunday that I was able to reach the area where I normally photograph and I only had the Panasonic FZ 1000 along as I was plowing snow with a tractor and had no way to transport most of my equipment.

Finally on Monday morning I was able to capture some shots of the deer contending with the deep snow.  It was very hard for them to move through it and they moved by a combination walking slowly or dashing for short distances and then pausing to rest.

Whitetails Struggle To Travel: Canon 7D 500mm F4
Only two days before, food was easy to find, but now the grass is covered and the deer mostly rely on browsing to survive.

Doe Pauses To Browse: Canon 7D 500mm F 4
Even though the snow is still very deep it has settled a bit and it seems the deer can move much easier through it now.  This morning I was able to capture a few more photos of deer dealing with the winter conditions.

Doe Browsing: Canon 5D MK III-100-400mm IS II@400mm
Young Doe Pauses From Feeding: Canon 5D MK III-100-400 IS II @263 mm
Most deer will likely survive the brutal weather if we do not get continually hammered with storms like the last one. As of now there are not any in the forecast and the weather has moderated considerably, but with that being said it is still likely that conditions are severe enough that deer with infirmities will perish before the winter is over.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.