Deep snow poorly timed for wildlife

Goldfinches and other birds have been busy getting sunflower seeds from area bird feeders. Many species of wildlife not near such food sources could be suffering from recent deep snows.

Deep snows are seldom good for Kansas wildlife, but the storm of last week and the one still spreading across the state come at particularly bad times.

During interviews today, four biologists said the lack of cover and food created from two years of drought could make things tough for many kinds of birds in Kansas through these deep snows.

Adding to the lack of cover from the weather and predators, and a shortage of food, is that thousands of acres of Conservation Reserve Program grasses were hayed or grazed last summer as emergency feed for Kansas cattle herds.

Jim Pitman, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism small game biologist, said cover was especially short and limited even before parts of the state got up to 18 inches of snow from the first storm. Now, he suspects many birds will fall to raptors that are in high numbers as they migrate through Kansas.

Robert Penner, of the Nature Conservancy of Kansas, said the lack of food has also forced many species of birds to feed where snow plows have scraped down to open soil along roadsides, leading to higher than normal roadkills.

Yet the current problem could eventually turn into a very much needed boost for wildlife populations this spring and summer in habitats starved for moisture.

More details are expected to follow in an upcoming article to be published in The Eagle later this week.