North Dakota mule deer population 5% below long-term average

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North Dakota mule deer are feeling the impacts of consecutive winters with extreme conditions. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDGFD) recently conducted its annual spring survey and found that the mule deer population is 29% lower than last year and 5% below the long-term average, according to The Bismarck Tribune.

NDGFD Big Game Management Supervisor Bruce Stillings said that “[b]iologists had concerns heading into winter based on the results of a fall mule deer survey” after blizzards in April 2022 left much of western North Dakota under several feet of snow. Strong winds and arctic temperatures only added to the harsh conditions.

In October, NDGFD completed its aerial survey, counting 1,116 mule deer, which was 31% lower than the count in 2021; however, the ratio of 69 fawns per 100 does was higher. Regardless, the doe-to-fawn ratio was still below the long-term average with the 40 bucks per 100 does about the same as 2021 and the long-term average, according to The Bismarck Tribune

Once the snow melts, NDGFD completes a spring survey to see how the deer are faring post-winter. The state has conducted these surveys in the same 24 study areas since the 1950s. To help bolster mule deer populations after “a string of bad winters from 2008-10,” biologists banned hunting of mule deer does in 2012 with restrictions lifted in 2016.

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