Mule deer population 34% above long-term average in ND
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A spring survey by state game officials shows the mule deer population in North Dakota is 13% higher than last year and 34% above the long-term average.
The Game and Fish Department has conducted the aerial survey each year since the 1950s. Game management officials say the relatively mild winter helped balance the effects of devastating drought conditions last summer and fall.
The spring count is a turnaround from last fall’s demographic survey, which indicated a population 21% above the long-term average but with the lowest fawn-to-doe ratio since 2012. Wildlife officials attributed the low ratio to the drought conditions that covered mule deer habitat much of the year.
“I was encouraged (this spring) that with poor habitat conditions we still saw a slight increase in mule deer numbers,” said Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor for Game and Fish.
“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,” he said.
Mule deer have been rebounding since a string of bad winters from 2008 to 2010 that led to record-low fawn production. Hunting of mule deer females was banned in North Dakota four straight seasons beginning in 2012. Restrictions were lifted in phases beginning in 2016.
Biologists counted 2,923 mule deer in about 300 square miles during this year’s survey.