ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — This winter’s temperatures and below-average snowfall made for a nice break from what we are used to, but wildlife experts believe it could be dangerous to New York’s ecosystem. Chief Zoologist for the New York Natural Heritage Program, Matthew Schlesinger, said they are carefully watching for long-term patterns with New York winters.
“Any particular winter could have those kinds of episodes,” Schlesinger said. “But then what happens is year after year, it’s hard for populations to recover. Scientific research has shown that, overall, winters have been warmer, ice is melting earlier, animals are migrating earlier in some places.”
Schlesinger said consistently warm weather during winter months could change how animals act and where they go across New York State, particularly when it comes to hibernation patterns and food supply.
“The kinds of things we worry about are early rising from winter slumbers,” Schlesinger said. “In the case of deer, less harsh winters mean less winter kill and bigger populations come spring.”
Schlesinger said those changes could present risks to New York’s ecosystem in the long term, including species survival rates, mating patterns and where animals live in the state and across the country. It could also change how we interact with wildlife through different activities like hunting, birdwatching and potentially increase the chances of long-term exposure to certain public health risks.
“One very clear example of that is with deer and ticks and ticks not being killed off by the cold winters,” Schlesinger said. “Then, that is increased tick populations that people have to deal with and, of course, there are major public health consequences to that.”