Spring Deer Survey Shows Solid Increase in Population

After a few tough winters and slight changes in management strategy, the results of a spring deer population survey show some positive signs to a solid rebound that bodes well for the future.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department completed its annual spring mule deer survey in April. Results indicate western North Dakota’s mule deer population has increased 24 percent from 2014.

North Dakota Mule DeerBruce Stillings, big game supervisor, said the increase is a result of less severe winters the past couple of years. Also helping is no harvest of antlerless mule deer the last three deer hunting seasons, and improved fawn production. The 2015 index is 16 percent higher than the long-term average.

“In order to maintain further population growth we need to maintain a conservative management approach, with no antlerless mule deer harvest again in 2015,” Stillings said.

Biologists counted 2,376 mule deer in 306.3 square miles during this year’s survey. Overall mule deer density in the Badlands was 7.8 deer per square mile. That is up from 6.3 deer per square mile in 2014.

The spring mule deer survey is used 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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