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OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: N.D. bighorn sheep population stable

N.D. bighorn sheep population stable

Bighorn sheep numbers in western North Dakota are holding steady, the Game and Fish Department said.

The department’s annual bighorn sheep survey tallied a minimum of 293 bighorn sheep, virtually unchanged from the previous count of 297.

In total, biologists counted 85 rams, 159 ewes and 49 lambs. Not included are 24 bighorn sheep introduced from Alberta in February, and approximately 30 bighorns in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

According to Brett Wiedmann, big game biologist for Game and Fish in Dickinson, N.D., the count in the northern Badlands was the highest on record, beating the previous record set in 2012, but the southern Badlands population declined 15 percent.

“Rams and lambs showed a slight decline, but adult ewes increased,” Wiedmann said. “About 75 percent of lambs counted during last summer’s survey survived the winter, which is about average, but the recruitment rate of 37 percent was above average.”

Game and Fish biologists count and classify all bighorn sheep in late summer, recounting lambs the next March as they approach a year old, to determine recruitment.

Wiedmann said he’s encouraged by another year of strong lamb numbers because it indicates a healthy population.

“Adult mortality was also low last winter, so we expect another good crop of lambs to begin hitting the ground within a few weeks,” he said.

Game and Fish allocated five bighorn sheep hunting licenses for this year, one more than 2013.

— N.D. Game and Fish Department

Prescribed burn workshop set for May 3 at UMC

A prescribed burning workshop for private landowners and others interested in using fire for grassland management is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 3 at the University of Minnesota-Crookston.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy are sponsoring the free workshop; pre-registration is required.

Participants will spend the morning of the workshop in the classroom learning about prescribed fire for grasslands and wildlife. Experienced instructors will cover the basics of prescribed fire, from planning to ignition to mopping up. After lunch, participants will apply their skills in the field with a prescribed burn, weather permitting.

A prescribed burn is the planned and intentional burning of habitat to remove dead plant material and rejuvenate growth of desirable grasses and forbs. Properly implemented and timed, prescribed burning can be one of the most effective and economical ways to improve grassland habitat.

Burn participants must wear appropriate clothing, including leather boots, leather gloves, eye protection and 100 percent cotton or wool clothing. No synthetic or blended fabrics will be allowed. Participants also must sign a waiver of liability.

Class size is limited to 20 people at least 18 years old. Pre-registration is required by April 28. To register and obtain more information, call Emily Hutchins at (218) 637-2156.

— Herald staff report

Study shows impact of winter on deer

According to the DNR, the Winter Severity Index had reached 180 by April 2 in parts of northeast Minnesota, exceeding even the tough winter of 1995-96. The WSI is a measure of days 0 degrees or colder and snow of 15 inches or deeper. A point is added for each day the factors occur, and an index of 100 or higher is considered the benchmark for a severe winter.

Based on DNR research, an increasing WSI, and specifically snow depth, historically has had the most significant effect on reduced deer survival.

In adult females, the average winter mortality over a 15-year period was less than 10 percent, but it ranged from 2 percent to 30 percent depending on winter severity.

The DNR will take a conservative approach to deer harvest in the areas hit hardest by this winter and will be reviewing population and harvest trends and making season management decisions during the next couple of months.

More details will be available this summer, the DNR said.

— Herald staff report

Did you know?

  •  Confiscated hunting and fishing equipment will be sold beginning at 2 p.m. May 3 at the North Dakota Wildlife Federation’s Report All Poachers auction in Minot. The auction will be held in the North Dakota State Fair Center’s 4-H hall. Items can be viewed from noon to 2 p.m. and include more than 70 rifles, shotguns and handguns; fishing equipment; bows; knives; spotlights; coolers and other miscellaneous merchandise. More info:
  •  Prolonged ice cover has prompted the DNR to extend the beaver trapping season in the northern third of Minnesota through May 15. The season was scheduled to close statewide April 30. Info:
  •  The DNR is accepting applications for Minnesota bear hunting licenses through May 2 at any license agent, online at and by telephone at (888) 665-4236. A total of 3,750 licenses are available in 11 permit areas, the same as last year. Bear licenses cost $44 for residents and $250 for nonresidents. The season opens Sept. 1 and closes Oct. 12. Successful lottery winners will be notified in mid to late May. Info:
  •  Homeowners should complete necessary open burning now, as restrictions will take effect shortly after snowmelt occurs. In Minnesota, a DNR burning permit is required when there is less than 3 inches of continuous snow cover. Spring fire restrictions will soon take effect and will severely limit open burning until summer green-up occurs. Most wildfires occur in April and May, and more than 95 percent are caused by human error.
  •  The next North Dakota guide and outfitter written examination is set for 1 p.m. May 17 at the Game and Fish Department office in Bismarck. The test is given periodically to anyone interested in becoming a hunting guide or outfitter in the state. For more information or to pre-register, call the department’s enforcement office at (701) 328-6604.