ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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).

NDGF mule deer doe.jpg
Mule deer doe. Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department
We are part of The Trust Project.

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).

RELATED STORIES:

“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.”

BruceStillings.jpg
Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor, North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
What to read next
Some of the research confirmed details that anglers have long suspected.
To get an event in the Outdoors Calendar, contact Brad Dokken at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or by email at bdokken@gfherald.com. Deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesdays.
Members Only
Conducted every five years since 1990, the survey originally was scheduled for the summer of 2020 but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dakota Prairie Grassland officials said they are surveying the area to identify a temporary reroute, and additional information will be released once a reroute is identified and completed.