As Hurricane Harvey struck the upper Texas coast in late August, video and photos of swimming deer began turning up on the Internet and TV news reports.
Fortunately, according to Texas wildlife officials, few adult whitetails succumbed to the storm. Even those in the hardest-hit areas soon returned to life as usual — or as close to usual as could be hoped for in the hurricane-ravaged areas.
“As far as deer, we will likely see some mortality due to flooding, but most of this will be fawn mortality,” noted wildlife division director Clayton Wolf.
“Two years ago we essentially lost the entire fawn crop on WMAs like Richland Creek, but these floods were earlier in the year,” the biologist said.“I suspect many of the earlier-born fawns in Southeast Texas were old enough to swim to high ground, but landowners could see a reduced fawn crop this fall.
“Interestingly enough, the earliest rut and corresponding fawning dates in Texas are in that area just southwest of Houston,” Wolf pointed out. “Do you suppose that maybe this area has early fawning dates because previous hurricanes and tropical storms resulted primarily in survival of those very-early-born fawns?”
Major flooding can endanger deer not only directly, but also through the major habitat changes that follow.
“If vegetation is inundated for an extended period, there will be defoliation of woody species and mortality of herbaceous species,” Wolf said. “Until the new vegetation germinates or the existing vegetation re-sprouts, there could be very little forage in some areas.”
Harvey struck about a month before archery season was set to open, with few public hunts directly affected. An early bowhunt at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was canceled, but the storm didn’t interfere with other quota deer hunts. Most of the hunts canceled were in September and were for alligators or teal.