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The success we have fishing and hunting later this year is being determined now, to a degree. (No pun intended)

This brutal cold spell is bad news for our region's wildlife, and may have a major impact on deer populations and possibly on trout streams as well.

The Christmas snowstorm, the third in a span of a few weeks, confined deer to their winter yards in many areas. The wooded yards provide some cover from the cold and snow, but not a lot of food. When it's this cold, deer and other wildlife need to eat more to keep their energy up, but the snow obviously hinders that.

We have had a bunch of wild cottontail rabbits in our neighborhood the past year or so, and one has been under our shed for the winter. I can see a path where it comes out and makes its way to bird feeders to eat what the birds and squirrels drop. I would see it out in the early evening, but haven't seen it the past few nights.

I'm wondering if the brutal cold already claimed it. I'm not sure how any creature without shelter can make it through this.

On our trout streams, the cold can cause "anchor ice," where a stream freezes completely, killing fish and the bugs and invertebrates they eat. We don't appear to be at that point yet on some of the streams and rivers I pass, but parts of Halfway Brook in Fort Ann looked close yesterday.

Ice fishermen and women are loving it, though. Lake George was frozen to Long Island as of Monday morning, with anglers already all over the bays to get perch and lakers.

It's been 15 years since we had a winter cold spell like this, and that one occurred in late January and early February, after major snowstorms. That winter also caused a major crash in the deer population; let's hope that the pattern moderates in the coming weeks.

-- Don Lehman

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Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on

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