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Buffaloberry Patch

Authors and Contributors
Greg Freeman

Bighorn Population Up from Last Year

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2018 bighorn sheep survey, completed by recounting lambs in March, revealed a minimum of 283 bighorn sheep in western North Dakota, up 7 percent from 2017 and equal to the five-year average.

Altogether, biologists counted 84 rams, 161 ewes and 38 lambs. Not included are approximately 20 bighorns in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Brett Wiedmann, Department big game biologist, was pleased to see an increase in the survey, following a decline in 2017.

“The increase in the 2018 count reflects lessening effects of bacterial pneumonia that was detected in 2014,” Wiedmann said.

The northern badlands population increased 9 percent from 2017 and was the second highest count on record. The southern badlands population declined again to the lowest level since 1999.

“The total count of adult rams declined in 2018, but adult ewes increased,” Wiedmann said. “Most encouraging was the significant increase in the lamb count and recruitment rate following record lows in 2016 and 2017.”

Game and Fish Department biologists count and classify all bighorn sheep in late summer, and then recount lambs the following March, as they approach one year of age, to determine recruitment.

“Fortunately, annual survival rates of adult bighorns are similar to those prior to the die-off and lamb survival is improving, which could indicate the population is becoming somewhat resilient to the deadly pathogens first observed in 2014,” Wiedmann said. “The next few years will be important in determining if the state’s population shows signs of recovering from the disease outbreak, or if the pathogens are likely to persist and cause a long-term population decline.”

Dr. Charlie Bahnson, Game and Fish wildlife veterinarian, said that four of 15 adult bighorns tested for the deadly pathogens last winter were positive.

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2019, unless there is a recurrence of significant adult mortality from bacterial pneumonia. The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determined September 1, after the summer population survey is completed.

Game and Fish issued three licenses in 2018 and all hunters were successful in harvesting a ram.

Be Courteous at Boat Ramps

North Dakota boaters are reminded to exercise patience and plan accordingly when heading to a lake or river this summer.

The state Game and Fish Department receives a number of complaints every year about overly aggressive behavior at boat ramps. A few simple reminders will help ensure a fluent transition when launching and loading a boat.


  1. Don't pull onto the ramp until your boat is ready to launch.
  2. Prepare for launching in the parking area. Remove covers, load equipment, remove tie downs, attach lines and put in drain plug, before backing onto the ramp.
  3. When ready, pull into line to launch. Wait your turn. Be courteous.
  4. It takes at least two people to efficiently and courteously launch a boat: one to handle the boat and one to take care of the tow vehicle.


  1. Don't block the loading area with your boat until your tow vehicle is ready to load. Wait until you are clear of the launch area to unload gear.
  2. As soon as your trailer is in the water, load and secure your boat to the trailer.
  3. Remove boat and trailer from the water as quickly as possible.
  4. Get clear of the ramp. Pull into the parking area to finish securing your boat, unloading gear, draining all water and inspecting for and removing any vegetation. Remember to leave plugs out when transporting boat.

Leave Baby Animals Alone, Watch for Deer

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department offers a simple message to well-intentioned humans who want to pick up and rescue what appear to be orphaned baby animals this time of year – don’t touch them. Whether it is a young fawn, duckling, cottontail rabbit or a songbird, it is better to just leave them alone.

Often, young animals are not abandoned or deserted, and the mother is probably nearby. Young wildlife are purposely placed into seclusion by their mothers to protect them from predators.

Anytime a young wild animal has human contact its chance for survival decreases significantly. It’s illegal to take wild animals home, and captive animals later returned to the wild will struggle to survive because they do not possess learned survival skills.

The only time a baby animal should be picked up is if it is in an unnatural situation, such as a young songbird found on a doorstep. In that case, the young bird could be moved to the closest suitable habitat.

People should also steer clear of adult wildlife, such as deer or moose that might wander into urban areas. Crowding stresses animals, and this could lead to a potentially dangerous situation.

In addition, motorists are reminded to watch for deer along roadways. During the next several weeks young animals are dispersing from their home ranges, and with deer more active during this time, the potential for car deer collisions increases.

Preventing the Spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species

North Dakota anglers, water recreationists and anyone working in lakes or streams are reminded to follow these simple regulations to help prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species.

Know the laws, as each state and province has its own rules and regulations. North Dakota regulations include:

  • Do not import live aquatic bait.
  • Use only legal bait species.
  • Transport live bait in containers of five gallons or less.
  • Properly dispose of unused bait.
  • Drain water and remove vegetation from all equipment when leaving a waterbody.
  • Remove drain plugs and keep out or open during transport.

Clean, drain and dry any equipment (recreational or commercial) that is used in any waterbody.

  • Clean: remove plants, animals and excessive mud from trailers, hulls, motors and other equipment such as fishing rods.
  • Drain: drain all water, including bilges, livewells and bait buckets.
  • Dry: allow all equipment to dry completely or disinfect before using again. If necessary, use sponges or towels to remove excess water and allow compartments to dry.

Report any plant or animal that seems out of place.

Catchable Trout, Catfish, Pike Stocked

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel stocked dozens of local community fisheries in spring with catchable trout, catfish and pike.

Approximately 10,000 11-inch rainbow trout, 600 2- to 4-pound rainbow trout, 1,200 adult catfish, 1,100 adult pike and 1,100 1- to 3-pound cutthroat trout were stocked in community fisheries around the state.

Jerry Weigel, Department fisheries production/development section leader, said the catchable fish were stocked in waters that are easily accessible, and in or near communities throughout North Dakota.

“Many have fishing piers and are a great opportunity for a first-time angler to catch fish,” Weigel said.

  • Adams – Mirror Lake (catfish)
  • Barnes – Hatchery Kids Pond (rainbow)
  • Burleigh – Cottonwood Park Pond (pike), OWLS Pond (cutthroat, rainbow), Wilton City Pond (rainbow)
  • Cass – Brooks Harbor Pond (rainbow, cutthroat), Casselton Pond (rainbow, cutthroat), Casselton Reservoir (pike), North Woodhaven Pond (rainbow)
  • Eddy – New Rockford Pond (pike)
  • Golden Valley – Beach City Pond (rainbow)
  • Grand Forks – Turtle River (rainbow)
  • McKenzie – Arnegard Dam (catfish), Watford City Park Pond (catfish, rainbow)
  • McLean – Camp Loop Pond (rainbow, catfish, pike), Custer Mine (rainbow), Painted Woods Pond (rainbow), Riverdale City Pond (rainbow)
  • Morton – Gaebe Pond (catfish, rainbow), Krieg’s Pond (catfish), Porsborg Dam (cutthroat, rainbow)
  • Mountrail – Stanley Pond (catfish)
  • Ransom – Mooringstone Pond (rainbow)
  • Renville – Glenburn Pond (catfish)
  • Richland – Mooreton Pond (cutthroat)
  • Stark – Belfield Pond (catfish, rainbow), Dickinson Dike (catfish, rainbow)
  • Stutsman – Little Britches Pond (rainbow, cutthroat)
  • Ward – State Fair Pond (rainbow, catfish)
  • Williams – East Spring Lake Pond (pike), West Spring Lake Pond (catfish, rainbow)

In addition, further stocking efforts took place at numerous trout lakes, including Glenburn Pond (Renville), Hazen Creek (Mercer), Lightning Lake (McLean), Little Heart Pond (Morton), Langdon City Pond (Cavalier), Oliver County Sportsmen’s Pond (Oliver), Ryan Park Pond (Grand Forks) and Stanley Pond (Mountrail)

Summer Safety on the Water

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department urges boaters to keep safety in mind when enjoying time on the water.

A boat should have enough life jackets on board for all passengers. North Dakota law requires all children ages 10 and younger to wear a personal flotation device while in boats of less than 27 feet in length. The law also requires all personal watercraft users to wear a life jacket, as well as anyone towed on skis, tubes, boards or other similar devices. However, state law allows an individual who is at least 16 years of age to windsurf or boardsail without wearing a PFD.

Water users should make sure to wear life jackets that are the appropriate size, and in good condition. Water skiers and tubers should wear a life jacket with four nylon straps rather than one with a zipper, because straps are stronger than zippers upon impact with water. Anglers or anyone paddling a canoe should opt for a PFD that is comfortable enough to wear for an entire outing.

It is also important that children wear a PFD while swimming. Swimmers should know the water’s depth, as serious injuries can occur from diving into water where large objects are hidden below the water’s surface.

Failure to wear a personal flotation device is the main reason people lose their lives in water recreation accidents.

North Dakota boaters also are reminded that marine VHF radios are an important part of boat safety that should not be improperly used by operators. These radios are intended for boat operators who are in distress and facing an emergency.

Regulations to help ensure safe boating this summer are found in the 2018-20 North Dakota Fishing Guide. A more comprehensive listing is available in the North Dakota Boat and Water Safety Guide or the Boat North Dakota education book.

North Dakota Archers Place at NASP Nationals

North Dakota archers placed in the top 10 in every category at the National Archery in the Schools Program Western National Tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jeff Long, state Game and Fish Department NASP coordinator, said North Dakota’s young archers had a great showing, particularly the elementary kids.

“We took first place in both boys and girls for individuals, and the team took first place as well,” Long said.

Danica Onchuck of Hankinson claimed the top spot in both elementary girls 3-D and bull’s-eye competitions, while Alex Weisenburger of New Rockford took first place in the elementary boys 3-D category and third in bull’s-eye.

Other elementary girls place winners were Matilda Moch, Edgeley, third in bull’s-eye; Kiara Fredrick, Wilton, third in 3-D; Jourdyn Bucholz, Griggs County Central, sixth in 3-D; and Claire Wehsler, North Sargent School, ninth in 3-D.

Also placing in the elementary boys division were Tucker Schacher, Wilton, second in 3-D and ninth in bull’s-eye; William Bergquist, Wilton, second in bull’s-eye and third in 3-D; Brady Hanson, Edgeley, fourth in bull’s-eye; Jayson Schlenker, Barnes County North, fifth in 3-D; and Hayden Risty, Wilton, eighth in bull’s-eye.

Place winners in the middle school girls division were Zoey Bohnenstingl, Lidgerwood, fourth in 3-D; Rylee Suhr, Griggs County Central, sixth in 3-D and seventh in bull’s-eye; and Ariana Onchuck, Hankinson, 10th in bull’s-eye.

In the middle school boys division, Brady Sand of Mayville-Portland-Clifford-Galesburg placed fourth in 3-D and ninth in bull’s-eye.

In high school girls, Gracie Gunderson of Medina finished fifth in 3-D and seventh in bull’s-eye, while Edgeley archer Sydni Berg placed fifth in bull’s-eye.

In the high school boys competition, Joshua Wiebusch of Wahpeton placed fourth in bull’s-eye and sixth in 3-D, and Andrew Hill from Oakes was seventh in 3-D.

Wilton’s elementary team took first place in 3-D and second in bull’s-eye. And Hankinson’s high school team finished second in bull’s-eye and third in 3-D.

Some North Dakota archers went to Louisville, Kentucky for eastern nationals and two students finished in the top 10.

Oakes elementary students Braysen Sagert finished in eighth place in the 3-D boys competition, and Shayle Zimbelman took ninth place in the 3-D girls division.

White Suckers Only Legal in Bois De Sioux, Red Rivers

The state Game and Fish Department reminds anglers that live white suckers are not legal baitfish anywhere in North Dakota, except in the Bois de Sioux and Red rivers.

Although anglers can use live white suckers on the Bois de Sioux and Red rivers, and tributaries up to the first vehicular bridge, they are illegal elsewhere. Fathead minnows, sticklebacks and creek chubs are the only legal live baitfish outside of the Bois de Sioux and Red rivers. Dead white suckers preserved by freezing, salting or otherwise treated to inactivate reproductive capabilities are legal bait.

The transportation of live white suckers, other than in Richland, Cass, Traill, Grand Forks, Walsh and Pembina counties, is illegal.

Anglers May Not Bring Aquatic Bait into North Dakota

Anglers are reminded that it is illegal to import all forms of live aquatic bait into North Dakota. This includes minnows, suckers, leeches, waterdogs (salamanders) and frogs.

Anglers should buy bait from a licensed North Dakota retail bait vendor. Bait vendors can properly identify species and have taken steps to ensure all bait is clean of any aquatic nuisance species.

For more information, refer to the 2018-20 North Dakota Fishing Guide, available at license vendors or online.

Put Garbage Where it Belongs

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds outdoor recreationists to keep it clean this summer by packing out all trash.

All garbage, including used fireworks, should be placed in a proper trash receptacle. If trash cans aren’t available, or are full, take the trash and dispose of it at home.

It is not uncommon to see garbage piling up around full trash containers. Styrofoam containers are not biodegradable, but are often found wedged in cattails, drifting or washed up on shore.

Tires, mattresses and kitchen appliances have found their way to public use areas. This illegal dumping is costly to clean up and takes a significant toll on the environment. Not only does it spoil the beauty of the land, it destroys habitat, has the potential to pollute North Dakota waters and can injure wildlife.

Littering violations should be reported by calling the Report All Poachers hotline at 701-328-9921.

Workshops for Educators Scheduled

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is sponsoring workshops in Dickinson, Valley City and Bismarck for teachers, environmental educators and anyone else who works with youth.

Pollinators in the Classroom is June 12-13 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Dickinson State University in Dickinson, and June 25-26 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Valley City State University in Valley City.

Participants will examine different animal species, receive the new Urban Pollinator curriculum with three distinct sections, and explore urban pollinator gardens and learn how to develop one in a local community or near a school.

The fast-paced workshop offers a hands-on approach that educators can use in their classrooms and on field trips, and in discussing classroom and curriculum integration. All supplies are provided.

Curriculum materials are suitable for both elementary and secondary teachers.

Herpetology and Citizen Science in the Classroom is June 20 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Game and Fish Department’s main office in Bismarck.

Participants will learn about reptiles and amphibians of North Dakota, including species identification, basic biology, life history and territories.

In addition, participants will learn how to incorporate Citizen Science in the Classroom, specifically the HerpMapper platform, and will spend time outdoors looking for species of interest.

More information on the workshops, including registration, fees and graduate credits, is available online.

Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest has a new look. The contest guidelines are the same as in previous years, but the process for submitting photos has changed.

Photographers who want to submit photos to the contest will now go the Department’s website. Then it is a matter of providing some pertinent information about the photo and uploading it.

The changes were put in place to help both with ease of submitting photos for the photographer and managing those images for Department staff.

The contest is now open and the deadline for submitting photos is October 1. For more information or questions, contact Patrick Isakson, Department conservation biologist, at

The contest has categories for nongame and game species, as well as plants/insects. An overall winning photograph will be chosen, with the number of place winners in each category determined by the number of qualified entries.

Contestants are limited to no more than five entries. Photos must have been taken in North Dakota.

By submitting an entry, photographers grant permission to Game and Fish to publish winning photographs in North Dakota OUTDOORS, and on the Department’s website.


Staff Notes

Rugby native Ashley Salwey has joined the agency as the Department’s photographer/assistant videographer. She has a bachelor’s of science degree in communications from the University of Mary in Bismarck.