RENO — December's potent storms spelled good news for drought watchers, but bad news for the state's wildlife.
Already weakened by a food shortage brought on by the drought, deer and other wildlife are being forced to search harder through heavy snow for something to eat, state wildlife officials said.
"After six years they're at the point where they're in trouble with heavy snow or with the drought," said Jim Curran, chief of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Curran predicted massive deer deaths this winter if the storms continue and subzero temperatures hit. Wildlife officials will not be able to assess the damage until April, when the state conducts its annual deer herd surveys.
It is not uncommon to find hundreds of deer carcasses in an area after a harsh winter, he said.
"I'm sure this spring there will be a few locations where we could find that," Curran said. "Some of these interstate herds along the California-Nevada line could be in that kind of jeopardy.
"They're competing with wild horses and livestock for what little food there is."
During deer hunting season last fall, wildlife officials inspected deer shot west of Gerlach and found that many were in extremely poor condition, Curran said.
There have been few reports of deer venturing into residential areas to get food, but it has happened in the past, he said.
Curran asked that people resist the urge to feed deer and other wildlife, saying it does more harm than good.