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Snowfall bumps Minnesota WSI readings into "moderate" range

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A month ago, Minnesota's Winter Severity Index indicated that white-tailed deer were lollygagging through a mild winter in most of Northeastern Minnesota.

Then the snows came.

Now the WSI readings, a formula that calculates the cumulative effects of snow and cold, have put most of Northeastern Minnesota into the "moderate" winter severity category.

Still, across most of the region, deer are faring well, according to most observers.

"The deer I'm seeing in the woods all look healthy. It looks like we're going to come through this one pretty good," said Craig Engwall, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.

In some areas nearer the Canadian border, however, snow depths have exceeded 2 feet.

The WSI, compiled by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife officials, accumulates one point for each day the temperature drops below zero and another point for each day with more than 15 inches of snow on the ground. Early in the winter, most points came from cold weather. Lately, the totals have increased mainly due to snow depth.

Snow depth, and especially the duration of deep snow, is the most critical factor in the WSI, said Tom Rusch, DNR area wildlife manager at Tower.

This winter's readings generally range from about 60 to 120, putting it in the "moderate" range. A "severe" winter is considered anything beyond end-of-winter WSI readings of 180.

"It's still, for the most part, a moderate winter," said Dave Olfelt, DNR regional wildlife supervisor at Grand Rapids. "We could lose all (the snow) in a week or get a basketball-tournament blizzard and have it last into April."

"Snow depth has changed considerably since Feb. 1," said Rusch, whose area includes nine deer permit areas. "All nine local permit areas are above the 15-inch threshold and adding snow points daily."

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