Wind developers show photos of deer under turbines to prove turbines don’t harm hunting. The truth is more complicated.
Deer leave during phases of turbine construction, which can last 10 years or more. Sometimes they return. If, for example, turbines are on farmland next to desert. That’s where those photos come from.
Deer don’t come back if the habitat has been significantly altered, which happens when turbines are put in recreational/residential/forest areas where there is forage and cover elsewhere.
Noise bothers wildlife. The more industrialization an area experiences, the less wildlife there will be. Deer in Osceola and Wexford can vote with their feet – into neighboring counties or townships that have imposed restrictions on turbines. “Most researchers agree that noise can affect an animal’s physiology and behavior, and if it becomes a chronic stress, noise can be injurious to an animal’s energy budget, reproductive success and long-term survival.” Research from Europe confirms low-frequency noise appears to bother animals, causing reproductive failure and viciousness.
Wisconsin hunters complain they can’t hear deer coming through the woods because of turbine noise, and numbers are down. Deer populations have crashed in Wyoming because ranches have been broken up, and wind, oil, and gas development stressed wildlife.
“The large spatial extent of wind development poses conservation concerns … namely habitat loss and fragmentation. Although direct habitat losses from turbine footings and roads typically comprise less than five percent of a wind energy project area, the habitat values of adjacent lands may be significantly diminished.” And it’s a lot noisier.
Wise planners will postpone development until more research appears, because biologists agree there are too many unanswered questions. As Wyoming has discovered, if the deer leave, they – and their hunters – may not return.
Victoria L. Brehm