Mule deer numbers in western North Dakota are similar to last year and 21% higher than the long-term average, the Game and Fish Department said Monday, May 3, in reporting results from its annual spring mule deer survey.

Biologists counted 2,671 mule deer in 306.3 square miles during this year’s survey, the department said in a news release. Overall mule deer density in the Badlands was 8.7 deer per square mile.

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Mule deer densities across the Badlands are encouraging, said Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor for Game and Fish in Dickinson, N.D.

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Bruce Stillings
Bruce Stillings

“But we are concerned that mule deer are beginning the summer with poor rangeland conditions due to the extreme drought across the western part of the state, which could negatively affect fawn survival,” Stillings said.

The department conducts the spring mule deer survey to assess mule deer abundance in the Badlands. It is conducted after the snow has melted and before the 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.

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