Biologists are warning Northern Michigan dog owners to keep their dogs close to home for the next several weeks until the snow melts, because deer are in a very precarious condition this winter. Surprisingly low March temperatures have used up deer fat stores at a time when deer have consumed much of the food in their deer yards, explains Steve Largent, a biologist with Grand Traverse Conservation District.

Even if dogs are not big enough to kill deer, they chase the animals, which causes the deer to burn up precious fat that they need simply to stay warm. “Dogs and coyotes are especially effective because they are lighter and can run on top of the snow pack, but deer punch through the snow with their pointy hooves,” Largent says. “Of course most people don’t intend to hurt the deer herd, but they need to understand the damage their pets can cause.”—Jeff Smith