Iowa deer may be "yarding up" this winter


(Des Moines, IA) -- Iowa wildlife experts say even for hearty deer, 2021 has been a rough winter. Tyler Harms of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources say the thick blanket of snow and bitter cold temperatures this month may have prompted deer to "yard up" -or seek some shelter in urban or residential areas, that might be slightly warmer than their natural habitat.

He says it's likely deer are hungry because of the thick snow-depth in Iowa, and their odds for finding something to eat might be better in a residential area. Harms says the layers of ice and snow, and ice again have made it difficult for deer to find a food source. That does not mean it's a good idea to set out food for them.

“Every winter we lose wildlife but in winters like this, we do expect some additional mortality,” said Tyler Harms, deer program leader for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “While people may think it’s a good idea to put out a pile of corn for the deer to eat, it actually causes more harm than good. Perhaps the biggest issue with feeding deer is the increased risk of spreading disease through the local herd.”

Artificially congregating deer in close quarters, like over a pile of corn, increases the likelihood of disease transmission to other deer.

“All it takes is for one deer to be infected with a disease to stop by, feed on the corn and leave its saliva and urine behind for there to become an outbreak,” Harms said. “But beyond disease transmission, feeding deer can cause other health issues.”

The Iowa DNR says there have been 21-new cases of chronic wasting disease detected.

The new positive deer were all from either an existing chronic wasting disease zone or adjacent to an existing zone. Two new counties were added to list where deer have tested positive. Jackson County had a positive deer that was taken just south of the existing Dubuque disease management zone, and Appanoose County had a positive deer taken just northeast of the existing Corydon disease management zone.

(Getty Images)