Wild spring for wildlife


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Midwest flooding has affected a lot of people this spring. We’ve seen flooded homes, entire fields under water and even vehicles that have stalled out in deep water. 

But what we don’t see is how it’s taking a devastating toll on wildlife. 

It’s heartbreaking to see how animals are being affected by flooding this year.  

This video shot by Lorlen Husman near Kennebec shows four deer being swept downstream by the fast moving current. 

It’s scenes like this that are being played out all across KELOLAND with so much water. 

Thankfully, though, all these deer made it to shore and went on their way. 

“In these types of situations we are always concerned,” Emmett Keyser said. 

Emmett Keyser is the regional supervisor for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.  He says we shouldn’t be surprised, because with so much water and heavy rain, it’s bound to happen.  

“There’s the potential for wildlife to get swept up in some of those areas, especially if they try to swim across or get across the body of water or stream that’s running a lot faster than they anticipated,” Keyser said. 

Deer are used to low-lying areas, especially this time of year when they are having their fawns.  

In the Big Sioux River basin, east of Sioux Falls, flooding is everywhere right now; forcing a lot of the wildlife to higher ground.

“It’s definitely a concern for us, but we’re not sure of the exact level that it’s going to impact animals; the biggest thing we are seeing is the displacement of those animals getting pushed out of those areas that are their natural habitat, because it’s flooded,” terrestrial resource supervisor with Game, Fish and Parks Josh Delger said.  

“There’s going to be some stress on them because they are going to be closer together and sharing space they typically not sharing space with other critters this time of year,” Delger said. 

Delger says there’s plenty of habitat and feed available, but deer will be on the move to find it.  

Sometimes they’ll find it wherever.  We caught this deer trying to rob a bird feeder of its seed. 

But what will the overall impact be? Will the flooding lessen the wildlife population in our state where animals typically thrive? 

“Normally water brings good habitat and good growth on the grass, so we see some benefits from a lot of water, but once it gets to this point it’s way too excessive,” Keyser said. 
Of all the wildlife in South Dakota, Game, Fish & Parks officials say pheasants could be impacted the most by the flooding. 

“The main indicator will be on pheasant nesting, and we’ll be able to make an assessment on that when we commence our roadside survey here in late July and early August,” Keyser said. 

“Some of the nests might have been impacted, a lot of times those birds will nest on top of muskrat houses or adjacent to wet lands and some of those nest could have been flooded too,” Keyser said. 

But it’s not all negative.

“I think the one positive thing we are seeing is the number of ducks and other waterfowl on the landscape specifically for South Dakota, a lot of them birds typically may nest up in North Dakota or Canada and a lot of them probably got to South Dakota and realized there’s a lot more water, lot of good habitat for ducks, so they’re going to set up shop here and nest in South Dakota this year, so that’s a big plus for South Dakota, we’ll see a lot more waterfowl this fall,” Delger said. 

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