Wildlife Stressed, Snowmobile Riders Stay Clear

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With significant snow storms dropping record to near-record snowfall on much of the state the past several weeks, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds snowmobile enthusiasts to stay clear of wildlife and its habitat so animals do not suffer additional stress.

Wildlife chief Jeb Williams said North Dakota’s wildlife population has already suffered significantly this winter.

“Any undue stress makes it worse,” Williams said.

Snowmobiles cannot be used to flush, chase or pursue wildlife. Running snowmobiles near, through or around winter habitat such as thickets, cattails and wooded areas may inadvertently scare wintering wildlife, causing them additional stress or injury.

Snowmobiles can be used off an established trail while fox or coyote hunting, but chasing a coyote through cover or across an open field on a snowmobile is illegal.

Williams said Game and Fish is concerned about the state’s wildlife, especially since it is still early in winter.

“Pheasants seem to be doing okay in some areas, but no doubt suffered losses in other areas,” Williams said. “What this winter will mean in terms of pheasant hunting opportunities next fall is hard to tell. The rest of the winter will be very telling, and good nesting conditions in spring will be critical.”

Reports of dying or dead deer are not uncommon in tough winters, and this holds true this winter as well. Mostly fawns and older deer are affected by the cold and wind. In addition, heavy snow cover prevents deer from accessing their usual food sources, which can result in deer dying because of grain overload – a result of deer switching their natural diet to a diet comprised mostly of corn and/or other grains.

Observers witnessing harassment or chasing of wildlife are encouraged to call the Report All Poachers hotline at 800-472-2121.

Riders are encouraged to use snowmobile trails and avoid situations that could disturb wildlife. Information on the North Dakota trail system is available at the Snowmobile North Dakota website at snowmobilend.org.