Game bird and big game seasons are closed, but North Dakota hunters and trappers still have plenty of opportunities to pursue coyotes, fox and other furbearers throughout much of the winter.

Stephanie Tucker, the state Game and Fish Department’s furbearer biologist, recently provided some status updates on the agency’s weekly webcast, "Outdoors Online." Here are some excerpts:

Coyote populations

Coyotes are the most popular furbearer in North Dakota, and the state has a lot of them. The market value for coyote pelts the last several years, including this year, continues to be good and strong. So, there's a lot of interest by hunters and trappers in going after coyotes and pursuing them for their fur.

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Coyote trends this year, both statewide and regional, indicate coyote numbers are probably going to be similar to last year, if not slightly lower in some regions. Now, there always are exceptions to that. Some people might have better coyote numbers in a local area, but statewide trends are similar to last year or a little bit lower.

Coyote hunting and trapping seasons

Hunting and trapping for coyotes is year-round in North Dakota, although the state does have separate night hunting and cable device seasons, which start right after deer gun season closes and go to March 15.

New legislation for coyote night hunting

Several years ago, via proclamation, North Dakota started allowing the use of night vision and thermal imaging equipment for the night hunting season for coyotes and fox. There has been a lot of interest and popularity in that night hunting and using that equipment for coyotes since then.

Hunters can also now use infrared illuminators with night vision equipment, along with red or green filtered lights, for night hunting of coyotes and fox during the night hunting season.

Mountain lion season

North Dakota hunters took five mountain lions in the Zone 1 early season. There was a limit of eight, so the limit was not reached during that early season time frame. One mountain lion also was taken in Zone 2 during the early season timeframe (and one in the late season time frame through Jan. 10).

North Dakota has two mountain lion zones. The Badlands region is Zone 1. That is where the state’s breeding population of mountain lions resides, and where Game and Fish restricts the harvest to allow for a sustainable population year after year. Zone 2 is the rest of the state, not suitable mountain lion habitat, but the cats occasionally wander out across the rest of the state.

When the deer gun season closes, the late mountain lion season opens. Hunters can use hounds in the late season, and the harvest limit is seven. (Status update: The late season harvest limit of seven mountain lions was reached on Dec. 15., triggering a conditional season to allow the harvest of three additional lions that were not taken in the early season. One lion was already taken in the conditional season, so hunters can still take two more until the season ends March 31.)

Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.

Doug Leier
Doug Leier