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Ice could harm wildlife more than the cold

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NEW LONDON, Minn. —— Most wildlife should be able to weather the recent arctic blast just fine, but some species could have difficulty finding food because freezing rain encased their food source in ice.

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The latest blast of winter weather is "stressing wildlife earlier than in past years," said Cory Netland, Department of Natural Resources wildlife supervisor in New London.

"There's definitely going to be some critters suffering from this," he said.

Because the snow isn't too deep in central Minnesota, deer should be able to forage for food without too much difficulty, but Netland said pheasants could find it challenging to peck through the icy snow to find food.

While a food plot of standing corn is the best way to provide supplemental food for wildlife, he said putting small piles of shelled corn in open areas that are close to cattails, trees or brush could be beneficial to pheasants.

He said it's important not to put food for wildlife on the side of a road.

Once supplemental food is provided for wildlife, it should be continued for the season. That includes remembering to resupply the corn stash in the fields for pheasants and the bird feeders in the backyard.

"Once you get them going, you've got to keep them going," said Netland.

Although deer are usually out at night, he said they may be on the move during the daytime hours while they look for food. He said coyotes will likely be more active now searching for food to fuel a high caloric need in the cold weather.

One animal that might find the cold weather especially brutal is the opossum. Because this is the northern edge of the opossum's territory, and because they have little fur, they may not fare well in the extreme cold.

Netland also said the already low muskrat population may freeze out because the low water levels in the wetlands are likely frozen solid.

There could be one positive side to the extended stretch of bitterly cold weather — it could kill troublesome insects like the emerald ash borer.

"Generally, the more cold we get the better chance we have of freezing all those nasty bugs we'd rather do without," said Tom Romaine, with the Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry.

But because the emerald ash borer came from a cold climate before it was imported to the U.S., Romaine said it's unknown what the true impact will be to the bug in the spring because of the current cold weather.

Even with a cold weather setback, he said the transportation of firewood out of infected regions is helping the emerald ash borer to continue to expand its territory in Minnesota and other states.

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