Drought pressures mule deer fawn production, fall Game and Fish Department survey shows
The ratio of 60 fawns per 100 does in the western North Dakota survey area was significantly lower than last year (82/100) and the long-term average (88/100), while the ratio of 38 bucks per 100 does was similar to 2020 (36/100) and long-term (43/100).
The drought had a big impact on mule deer fawn production in western North Dakota, the Game and Fish Department said Thursday, Nov. 4, in reporting results from its fall mule deer survey.
Biologists counted 2,163 mule deer in the October aerial survey. The ratio of 60 fawns per 100 does was significantly lower than last year (82/100) and the long-term average (88/100), while the ratio of 38 bucks per 100 does was similar to 2020 (36/100) and long-term (43/100).
- Read more hunting stories in Northland Outdoors
- Read more fishing stories in Northland Outdoors
- Read more recreation stories in Northland Outdoors
“This year’s count was the lowest fawn-to-doe ratio since 2011 and 2012, following the severe winters of 2008 through 2010,” said Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor for Game and Fish in Dickinson, North Dakota. “Nutritional stress related to the drought was also apparent, with considerably more yearling bucks observed as spikes rather than forked bucks.”
Snowfall and windy conditions during the survey limited biologists to 20 of the 24 study areas, Stillings said.
Game and Fish conducts the fall aerial survey specifically to study demographics. The survey covers 24 study areas and 306.3 square miles in western North Dakota. Biologists also survey the same study areas each spring to determine deer abundance. Results from the spring 2021 survey indicated mule deer numbers were similar to 2020 and 21% higher than long-term averages, but the impact of drought was a concern for department biologists even last spring.