FARMINGTON — A mild winter so far has allowed deer to roam more freely. 

Some local residents are spotting more deer in their yards than normally found at this time of year. One Sunset Avenue resident watched a herd of seven check out his apple tree early one morning last week.

But, the freedom provided by less snow and cold may have taken a toll.

From Dec. 1 to Jan. 15, a total of 20 deer-car accidents in Farmington have been reported to the local police department, Bonnie Pomeroy, Farmington Police Department secretary, said.

Many nights police have covered one accident and on weekends sometimes three of more, she said.

Because the weather has been mild with little snow until last week, deer have not been forced to restrict their movements, Robert C. Cordes, assistant regional wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said.

The snow this past week may start to push deer in to their more traditional wintering areas, he said.

Usually, during Maine’s normally severe winters, where snow depth is greater than a foot and temperatures fall below zero, deer move in to wintering areas to conserve energy, he said.

“These wintering areas are predominately softwood cover(fir, spruce, cedar, hemlock) with a closed canopy,” he said. “Under that closed conifer canopy, there will be reduced snow depths, protection from wind, and it is often a degree or two warmer.”

That increase in degrees “may not seem like much unless you have small pointed feet and need to spend 100-120 days in one of these areas,” he said.

Wintering areas of this type, especially within the town, are limited so deer tend to congregate in to larger groups,he said. The area and larger group does have benefit. It helps keep packed trails available for moving around and avoiding predators, he said.

The mild weather this year and a couple past years of milder than average winters may be part of the reason more deer are being spotted, he said.

But another piece to the puzzle is that “deer populations, in much of the state, have rebounded from the severe winters in 2008-2009, due to management efforts (of) restricting doe harvests in a lot of wildlife management districts,” Cordes said. 

This mild winter and added mobility of deer can be related to vehicle collisions but there can also be a couple other factors involved.

“A road that goes through a deer wintering habitat is one cause,” he said. But, another cause may be “when people choose to supplemental feed deer during the winter and their feeding occurs near a major road.” 

Winter is a hardship for most wildlife, he said. It is cold and the snow makes it hard to travel. Food is limited, he said.

But, “all wildlife has different adaptations to deal with winter,” he said.

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