North Dakota mule deer population up 13%

Photo credit: Getty Images

Here’s some great news for North Dakota hunters: the state’s mule deer population is rebounding! In fact, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s (NDGFD) spring survey, the population is 13% higher than last year and 34% above the long-term average, the Associated Press reports. 

“I was encouraged (this spring) that with poor habitat conditions we still saw a slight increase in mule deer numbers,” said Bruce Stillings, NDGFD’ s big game management supervisor.

Last fall, the agency recorded the population at 21% above the long-term average.

Every spring, NDGFD biologists complete an aerial survey to see how the population has fared during the winter. This year, officials were concerned how drought would impact mule deer herds; however, based upon the current number, the mild winter “helped balance the effects of devastating drought” that spread through last summer and fall.  

Regardless, the fawn-to-doe ratio is the lowest officials have recorded since 2012 – likely because of the continued drought in prime mule deer habitat.

“Those fawns that hit the ground in 2021 -- though it was a smaller cohort than normal -- milder winter weather conditions led to higher survival in both the fawns and adults,” said Stillings.

A total of 2,923 mule deer were counted in 300 square miles during this year’s survey.


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