As snow accumulates, deer congregate in wintering areas, commonly known as ‘deer yards’. These areas are usually located in mature softwood stands. They provide protection from the blustery winds, intercept snowfall, and minimize the animal’s heat loss.
New Brunswick actively manages over 800 deer wintering areas (280 000 hectares) on Crown land. This habitat has the potential to over-winter aboout 50 000 deer; though fewer than that reside on Crown land today.
Government requires a specified area of land be maintained as deer habitat on each of its 10 Crown timber licences.
Management plans are prepared for each deer wintering area to guide forest harvesting and silviculture activities to benefit deer.
Temperature and snow conditions vary across the province. As a result, licensees must provide habitat for both moderate and severe winter weather.
New Brunswick has a rich logging heritage. Did you know that the loggers who harvested our mature forest over the past century were also helping our white-tailed deer?
Cutting opened the old forest and created better ‘browse’. With this fresh supply of food – tender shoots and twigs – the herd grew rapidly.
Late in the year, the deer feeds on raspberry, clover and other vegetation that remain green long into the fall. It also depends on apples, beech nuts and various plant by-products.
As winter starts and snow covers the ground, the deer seeks protection in mature conifer (evergreen) cover. Its winter diet will consist of hardwood twigs and cedar browse.
Because New Brunswick is at the northern tip of the white-tail’s range, finding both winter cover and browse in close proximity is a challenge. It also limits the animal’s survival.
Deer wintering areas are generally on south- or southeast-facing slopes. This offers protection from prevailing winds and maximizes exposure to the sun's radiant energy. Typically, they are stands of spruce and fir with some cedar. Crown closure – or density of tree cover – is usually between 50 and 70 per cent.
The white-tail develops an extensive network of trails through the wintering area. This reduces the energy required to move about and helps it evade predators.
Wintering areas are key to deer survival in New Brunswick. That is why we at the Department of Energy and Resource Development require that forestry companies maintain a proportion of the Crown land they manage as habitat to support our white-tail population.