The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Rick Brockway

March 30, 2012

Extremely mild winter means this summer's going to bug everybody

I spoke with an elderly gentleman the other day. He's 87.

"Ralph, have you ever seen a winter like this in your entire life?," I asked.

"No," he replied, "but my dad told about one back in the 30s."

According to the calendar, spring officially started March 20. We all know it really started Dec. 21, though. That's usually the first day of winter, but fall pretty much blended into spring and left winter sitting on the sidelines.

So what are the effects of the lack of snow and freezing-cold weather?

Normally, the extreme cold and deep snow here in the Northeast have a detrimental effect on the wildlife. Last fall, we saw several groups of very small turkeys in September and October from late-season hatches. They don't usually survive the winter, but they did this year.

You've had to notice the huge flocks of turkeys as you drive around the countryside. They're everywhere. As far as turkey hunting this spring, it's going to be tough. The long-bearded toms have been strutting and mating for weeks already. Come May, the breeding season will have been long forgotten, making it extremely difficult to call in that big, old gobbler.

It's the same with deer. Because food is harder to find in heavy snow and every drop of energy is used to keep warm, some deer don't survive the winter. Other than those killed by automobiles or coyotes, most made it through this past winter in great shape. We easily could see a near doubling in the deer population this fall. Consequently, you'll see far more car/deer accidents, more damage to crops, gardens and shrubs, and far more deer when it comes to hunting season. We should see record deer harvests come October and November.

Non-hunters won't be spared, either. Just try sitting out in your yards this summer. If you thought the hurricanes led to an increase in the mosquito population last year, wait until you see how many of those pesky, biting insects will be around after an extremely mild winter. It should be worse than a couple of summers ago, when it rained at least four out of every seven days? Sitting outside back then was a little like going to the Red Cross to donate a pint of blood.

It's likely your pets will be plagued by more fleas and ticks as well, so get started early with the Frontline, Advantix or whatever you may use. More insects means more crop damage for farmers, too.

I know a lot of folks really liked the extremely mild winter we just had. Heating bills were down and traveling was much safer. But winter is good for the economy. Just ask the folks who live in small Adirondack towns or near ski areas. It's their livelihood.

Snow and cold are good for the ground, too. My grandfather used to say that snow is poor man's fertilizer. The nitrogen in the snow leaches into the soil and helps make everything green. He was right.

After this summer, you may be praying for a few blizzards this winter. Just sit around a campfire on the Fourth of July. You'll see.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.

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