The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Outdoors

February 1, 2014

Wintertime, and the livin' ain't easy

(Continued)

“Our only real problem might have been the little bit of freezing rain earlier that put a thin crust of ice out making it tough for pheasants to scratch through,” he said.

However, a few timely thaws melted much of that, once again making it much easier for birds to find food.

Jeanine Borland, an area wildlife manager stationed at Owatonna, said that with as much as a foot of snow on the ground in her area, the latest blows have created some impressive drifts and clogged some of the smaller tracts of winter cover.

“Out in the open, the drifts are pretty hard, but in protected areas, the snow is still light and fluffy enough to allow wildlife to burrow in for protection against the cold,” she said.

Recently, she has seen more pheasants out in the open, foraging in fields — a good news, bad news scenario.

“They’re out there, still able to find food, but they’re also more visible and vulnerable to predators,” she said.

One bonus to the snow cover, she said, was that many of the shallow lakes that are more suitable for wildlife than for fish will benefit from the winter kill that likely will occur, purging them of problem species such as carp.

Locally, Joe Stangel, an area wildlife manager stationed at Nicollet, said that until recently, fields were open enough to make for easy foraging.

“It’s probably gotten a little tougher with the last snowfall,” he said.

He said that pheasants in particular have probably moved into heavier winter cover where they can find it — stands of conifers and thick cattail sloughs, in particular.

“Things are probably going to get a little tougher from here on out,” he said, noting that food plots are integrated into many state wildlife areas where possible to help wildlife make it through severe winters.

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