North Dakota’s pronghorn population is finally growing after five years of steady decline. However, Bruce Stillings, big game supervisor for the State Game and Fish Department, said numbers are still below population objectives and not high enough to warrant a hunting season. Therefore, the Game and Fish Department is recommending the pronghorn hunting season remain closed in 2013.
Recent survey results indicate the statewide population is 5,400 pronghorn, 49 percent higher than last year, but still 62 percent below 2008, the last year a hunting season was held. “We expected to see a population increase due to another year without a hunting season and a mild winter across much of our pronghorn range, which led to high adult and fawn survival,” Stillings said.
This year, Stillings mentioned, fawn production was average to below average in all management regions. He said another mild to average winter in 2013 should encourage future population growth, but challenges remain with pronghorn habitat in the west.
“Fragmentation of habitat due to energy development and loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres in the secondary range are challenges facing future pronghorn recovery in the state,” Stillings said.
The aerial survey is flown in late June/early July after young-of-the-year are born and visible. Five airplanes covered more than 11,000 square miles of aerial transects within pronghorn habitat.
Biologists will continue to monitor pronghorn numbers in the future, and will reopen the season when the population returns to a level capable of withstanding a harvest.
The 2013 pronghorn season will be closed to both gun and archery hunters. Applicants who have accumulated preference points will maintain their current points.