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A good starting point: North Dakota Game and Fish collar 106 mule deer in initial year

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Photo In this undated photo, three mule deer stand in a field. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is through its first season of the mule deer survey.

The initial year of the mule deer radio collar survey in western North Dakota is complete and the horizon is bright.

In the first 12 months of the survey, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and Jesse Kolar — a graduate from the University of Missouri — have surpassed their initial number of collars.

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The survey, which started with grant from the Oil and Gas Research Council through the North Dakota Industrial Commission, began with 90 collars — 60 doe and 30 fawns — and number has grown to 106 mule deer.

“The initial 90 was the number we wanted to sample and then the subsequent years you are replacing deer that were lost to get the sample back out the original 90,” said Bruce Stillings, a Game and Fish Department big game biologist. “We have a few more than that, because the fawns that survived through the original capture will move onto the yearlings. We established a relatively large sample size to get the best results that we can.

“Things are going real well and we have a good sample size. The animals are distributed throughout the western Badlands in varying oil development. Our radio collars have performed very well over the course of the year. We’re very pleased with where we are at this time.”

The findings for the survey are to investigate and measure the effects of oil development on mule deer in western North Dakota. The survey is looking at survival movement, resource selection and recruitment of mule deer which are more oil developed than less developed.

Field study for the survey will last three years. Kolar will then travel back to Missouri to analyze data.

“The first year was the most difficult, because we were trying new methods and making sure everything work,” Kolar said. “It was nice to get through one full year. Hopefully, the second year will go off without a hitch.”

The radio collars range from the southern shore of Lake Sakakawea and are dispersed in the western Badlands to just west of Amidon. The survey will also work with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in collaring mule deer in eastern Montana.

“There are animals scattered throughout the entire western range,” Stillings said. “That should give us some really good information.”

Kolar did a majority of scouting for mule deer pockets. He said there was about two or three full days of doing only scouting. It was then time to put collars on mule deer.

The Missouri graduate, who grew up in Dickinson, said with the all of the biologists in the Dickinson Game and Fish office, they knew where there were good mule deer numbers.

“There were some areas that we wanted to look into that didn’t have people that knew the area as well within the department,” he said. “We spent some time in the Game and Fish airplane.”

Kolar said it has been unique returning to Dickinson to complete a survey of how oil development is impacting his home state.

“It’s tough sometimes when I go out to spots that I used to hike or hunt and see there is a scoria pit or something in place of valley,” he said. “But at the same time, it has been really interesting in light of the oil. There’s some places where there are still some good deer and oil development. It’s kind of suggesting it’s not an end all for the deer.”

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