UTAH (ABC4) — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has announced that it is postponing the opening dates for four wildlife management areas in northern Utah due to the extreme winter conditions animals have faced. The decision was made to give the animals time to recover and find food sources after a brutal winter season. 

The Middle Fork Wildlife Management Area, located in the Ogden Valley, remains closed due to the prolonged stay of wildlife at lower elevations this year. Typically, these areas open to the public around April 8 each year, but this year’s snowfall has delayed their opening. The deep snow and lack of food sources have kept big game animals at lower elevations longer than in previous years.

“We’ve fed deer more this year than any of the years I can remember,” said Mark Hadley, the Division of Wildlife Resources Northern Region Outreach Manager.

Dozens of feeding sites were set up over the winter months in the Northern Region, essentially north of I-80, and the feeding of deer is still ongoing in Rich and Summit Counties.

Three other areas remain closed through mid-May: Swan Creek and the Woodruff Coop in Rich County, and the Kamas Wildlife Management Area in Summit County.

These extended closures will hopefully give the local deer population a chance to recover. Hadley notes that “temperatures are moderating, but this is still a really hard time for deer because they just came through a really hard winter, and so it takes a little while for them to find some green feed and get their energy levels back, to start to put some fat back on.”

The adult deer population in the northern region will have an estimated survival rate ranging from 25-70%, with better survival rates in Box Elder County.

However, it’s much worse for fawns.

“In the northern part of the state, only about 5-10% of the fawns are projected to make it through the winter; we’ve lost a lot of fawns,” Hadley said.

Therefore, the best thing you can do this time of year if you see deer is to give them some space and not get too close to them so that they don’t have to use up the little energy that they have left to try and get away from people.

Statewide statistics are projected to be better for fawns and adult deer than just the Northern Region, with an adult deer survival rate projected to be as high as 80% and roughly a 50% survival rate for fawns.