Spring means movement for more than birds

Betsy Bloom/Daily News photo THE HUMMINGBIRDS ARE back in force. A male ruby-throated zeroes in on an easy meal.

By BETSY BLOOM

Managing editor

Birds, rightly, get much of the attention for their annual spring migration.

But deer in the Upper Peninsula also will travel a considerable distance once the snow has cleared enough to uncover new forage.

Deer definitely are moving back to summer grounds, though some parts of the far north still aren’t quite greened up enough, said Ryan McGillviray, a wildlife technician at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources office in Crystal Falls.

The DNR earlier had warned the late April snowstorm that dumped a foot or more of snow in some places, coupled with the delayed spring, might deal a fatal blow to some deer already at the end of their reserves.

That proved to be true, though not to the level initially feared, McGillviray said. They did find dead deer, mostly fawns of the year, that had red or raspberry-colored bone marrow — a sign of starvation that usually is irreversible even if the deer can find food, he said.

“If they get to the point of using fat reserves in marrow … they’re probably going to die,” McGillviray said.

But nearly 80 percent of the deer the DNR have collared to track their movement patterns survived, he said,

“We lost some,” McGillviray said, “but I think they’re going to be OK.”

Most does should begin dropping this year’s fawns the first week of June, which means the days of last season’s offspring hanging around with mom are numbered — especially if it’s a little buck.

While a yearling doe might stay in the same general area, the bucks will be compelled to venture much farther, so they eventually can find does they aren’t related to, McGillviray said. They won’t cover as much ground as young male wolves or cougars — known to cross entire states seeking new territory — but these yearling bucks may “disperse” 50 miles or more, he said.

One buck the DNR tagged just south of Baraga was harvested 40 miles away in the Crystal Falls area, he said.

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While the avian influx continues, some birds already are incubating eggs, McGillviray said.

Turkeys, ruffed grouse and Canada geese are the most likely to be on the nest. The first sandhill cranes may be as well; downy crane “colts” already have hatched downstate in Michigan and Wisconsin.

He had yet to hear reports of any goslings or ducklings just yet but expects they will appear by month’s end.

The delayed spring that saw snow and ice remain through April shouldn’t throw off the area’s breeding birds, which can’t afford to delay getting their offspring to an age and maturity that they can make the migration south in the fall, or be big enough to withstand the rigors of winter if they remain here, McGillviray said.

Many of the mammals, too, either have given birth or will soon. The U.P.’s canines — fox, coyote, wolf — normally would have whelped last month, he said; DNR wildlife biologist Monica Joseph saw very young wolf pups north of Crystal Falls. It takes a long time for predators to grow enough to gain hunting skills, so they often get their start in life before spring truly sets in.

McGillviray said he’s also gotten a growing number of calls about raccoons and skunks poking around decks and sheds or other buildings, “looking for places to have their young.” While he can sympathize, he said the DNR doesn’t assist with trapping such animals but can refer the caller to a professional wildlife removal specialist in the region.

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It would appear our property might not have the right stuff to get indigo buntings.

A mention in last week’s column that we’d yet to see one of these vivid blue beauties this year drew a number of email and Facebook comments from others who had been visited — including a neighbor just up the hill from us.

I thought I saw one in the back yard a week ago, but it had disappeared by the time I’d turned back with the camera.

Our neighbor said the buntings were favoring the thistle seed, which could explain why we were unable to lure them in — a bear crushed our plastic tube feeder earlier this spring.

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A very large snapping turtle was trying to cross M-95 near the fire station Thursday evening. It points up that birds and deer aren’t the only animals that might be on the move. Turtles, too, might be seeking new habitat, and also soon will be hauling out to lay eggs.

If it can be done safely, try giving these turtles a little assistance in getting across the road, as they otherwise are vulnerable to being crushed by vehicles. It’s best to drop the turtle in a container if available, rather than try to carry it by hand — they tend to have some fairly long claws to go with those strong jaws, so can do some damage.

Always take the turtle in the direction it was headed. And wash or otherwise disinfect your hands as soon as possible after handling a turtle.

Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 40, or bbloom@ironmountaindaily news.com.

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