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Wildlife hanging on after snow storm; weather killed some songbirds

Published 10:58am Monday, May 6, 2013

The recent bout of winter weather wasn’t a picnic for area wildlife, but it could have been worse.

Minnesota Department of Natural Area Wildlife manager Jeanine Vorland said the heavy May snowfall could affect birds and animals that just recently migrated back.

“You know there’s going to be some losses,” she said.

But for once, the crummy spring weather may be a good thing, as Vorland said the effects will be lessened because spring has been generally wet and cold already. Had a similar snowstorm occurred last year when there was an early, warmer spring, the weather likely would have been more damaging to area wildlife.

Much of the spring migrations and patterns are delayed this year, and some birds delayed their migration because the weather has been cold, according to Vorland.

“It’s not necessarily the best to be the early bird,” she said.

Vorland said the DNR already saw some mortality in songbirds about three weeks ago after many were tired from their migrations, and then there was an earlier round of spring snow and cold weather.

However, certain birds will able to fly up to 50 miles to areas outside the heaviest snow. And while close to a foot of snow in May is rare, spring snowstorms aren’t a new phenomenon to the area. Vorland said many of the animals have adapted over time to weather conditions.

“This is why wood ducks nest in trees,” Vorland said.

Vorland said the snow could be challenging for ducklings, goslings and pheasant chicks that sometimes hatch in early Mary.

“That could be very, very tough,” she said.

But overall, Vorland said, nesting may be a bit delayed, too, since the weather hasn’t yet turned consistently warm.

If some waterfowl lose hatchlings, Vorland said, it’s early enough that they can re-nest this year. However, she noted second nestings are often less productive.

The faster the snow melts, the less effect it will have on area wildlife.

“If it moves pretty quickly, then critters will recover more quickly,” she said.

While some people are hoping the weather will make for a less buggy summer, Vorland said, the mosquitos and wood-ticks populations likely will not be diminished by the snow.

After many months of drought conditions, Vorland said, the snow is just another needed dose of moisture to help grasslands and forests.

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