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Spring mule deer survey shows healthy population in western North Dakota

During the recently completed survey, department biologists counted 2,923 mule deer in 298.8 square miles.

Mule deer buck.jpg
Mule deer buck. Contributed/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department
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BISMARCK – Mule deer numbers in western North Dakota are up 13% from last year and are 34% above the long-term average, the Game and Fish Department said this week in reporting results from its annual spring mule deer survey.

During the recently completed survey, department biologists counted 2,923 mule deer in 298.8 square miles. The overall mule deer density in the Badlands was 9.8 deer per square mile.

Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor for Game and Fish in Dickinson, said he is encouraged with mule deer densities across the Badlands.

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Alex Comstock, who launched the website whitetaildna.com while he was in college and manages a corresponding YouTube channel, is an avid deer hunter and shares his passion for everything outdoors.

“The spring index was higher than 2021, despite having very poor fawn production,” Stillings said. “Although fawn production was low due to extreme drought, habitat in the Badlands was still in a condition able to provide high over-winter survival, leading to a slight population increase in 2022.”

The 2022 spring survey was the longest on record because of two April blizzards, Stillings said.

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“These two blizzards produced approximately 40 inches of snow with high winds and low temperatures,” he said. “The effects of these storms will not be understood until upcoming surveys are completed.”

The spring mule deer survey is used to assess mule deer abundance in the Badlands. Department biologists conduct the survey after the snow has melted and before trees begin to leaf out, providing the best conditions for aerial observation of deer. Biologists have completed aerial surveys of the same 24 study areas since the 1950s.

Game and Fish currently is accepting applications for the 2022 deer gun season. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, June 8. More info: gf.nd.gov .

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