The worst of the cold spell is behind us ... for now
Temperatures across the Northland were as low as 20 below zero Wednesday morning, and things didn't get a whole bunch better as the day wore on.
National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Kevin Huyck said the NWS had reports of -20 degrees three miles east of Wright, -19 in Moose Lake and southwest of Cloquet, -17 in the city of Cloquet and -16 in Scanlon Wednesday morning. Windchill was even lower -- feeling like between -20 and -40 degrees -- and the National Weather Service office in Duluth issued a rare wind-chill warning for the entire region until 6 a.m. Thursday.
The Weather Service warns that any exposed flesh at expected wind-chill levels could suffer frostbite in 10 minutes or less and that hypothermia also can occur quickly. Northland residents are reminded to look after children, the elderly and pets to make sure they have warm shelter.
On Wednesday afternoon, Huyck said temperatures should warm up ... eventually.
"We're climbing up to a new low," Huyck said. "It won't be as cold as last night, but it will still be very cold. We're heading in the right direction, but very, very slowly."
The meteorologist said temperatures should rise above zero on Thursday, and by early next week we could see low temperatures above zero.
The average temperature for the past six days was -2.8 degrees, Huyck noted.
Think that's cold? It's no record, he said. In fact, that average temperature puts us at No. 19 in the record books for the same period of time. The record for the same six-day period was an average of -7.5 degrees, set in 1927.
No corn for wild deer
The combination of deep snow and bitter cold isn't a good one for wild animals, but people should be sure not to make the problem worse, said Martha Minchak, assistant area wildlife manager for the Department of Natural Resources Duluth office.
Minchak explained that, in the hierarchy of the way deer succumb to the cold, fawns are the first to be affected, followed by the bucks.
"They are coming out of or are still in the rut. They spend all their time and energy on that," Minchak said. "So they don't build up any reserves."
Does are the last to succumb, she said, adding that her office has taken calls about fawns that are ailing, but nothing on any adult bucks or does yet.
The most important thing kind-hearted folk should remember is NOT to feed wild deer corn or other grains, unless you have been feeding them grains all fall already.
"If they haven't been eating grains or corn consistently already, they will die with full stomachs," she said, explaining that once the deer have switched to a diet of twigs and "woody browse" -- plant material -- they can't switch back (to grains/corn)."
Seeds, such as those in a birdfeeder, or apples won't harm them but are only supplemental food, she said. For those who are desperate to feed the deer, she recommended buying pellets from a feed store, but only if you're committed to feeding the deer all winter long, until greenup comes in April or May.
"It can be a very long and expensive undertaking," Minchak said.
Some small owls can die off in conditions like these, she said, because they find it difficult to get through the snow to their usual prey, which includes mice, voles and shrews that tunnel under the snow. Thus, people might see owls hunting around their bird feeders or window wells, where the animals might emerge from the snow to get seeds or other foods.
Small mammals such as rabbits, snowshoe hares and squirrels also appreciate supplementing their diet with sunflower seeds and the like, she said.
For most animals in the wild, things haven't hit a critical stage yet, she said. For some, like grouse, it's ideal.
"All the critters in this part of the world have evolved under these conditions," Minchak said. "People need to remember that. But I know people like to help out sometimes."
Just do it correctly. No corn.