The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has allocated five bighorn sheep licenses for the 2021 hunting season, one fewer than last year.

The department issued one license in Unit B1, one in B3 and two in B4. In addition, one license, as authorized under North Dakota Century Code, was auctioned in May by the Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation, from which all proceeds are used to enhance bighorn sheep management in North Dakota.

This year's auction tag sold for a record $135,000, said Brett Wiedmann, big game management biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson.

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The number of once-in-a-lifetime licenses allotted to hunters is based on data collected from the Game and Fish Department's summer population survey. This year's count showed adult ram numbers that were similar to 2020, Wiedmann said.

“Our objective this hunting season is to maximize hunter opportunity in the northern badlands where ram numbers are strong, while continuing to reduce the number of rams in the southern badlands, to lessen the risk of transmitting disease to the northern population,” he said, while mentioning the concern is the ongoing effects of the bacterial pneumonia outbreak that was first detected in 2014 that resulted in a loss of 15% to 20% of the adult population.

There are more than 300 bighorn sheep north of Interstate 94, but fewer than 20 south of the interstate, Wiedmann said.

Game and Fish in February announced it would determine the status of the bighorn sheep hunting season after completing the summer population survey. Prospective hunters were required to apply for a bighorn license earlier this year on the bighorn sheep, moose and elk application. A record 19,126 applicants applied for bighorn sheep. Successful applicants have been notified.

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