The North Dakota Game and Fish Department completed its annual spring mule deer survey in April, and results indicate western North Dakota’s mule deer population is up 7% from last year and 22% above the long-term average.
Biologists counted 2,364 mule deer in 267.3 square miles during this year’s survey. Overall mule deer density in the badlands was 8.8 deer per square mile.
Big game management supervisor Bruce Stillings said the population is above objective and remains at a level able to support more hunting opportunities in the northern badlands.
“Mule deer have recovered nicely across the badlands following the winters of a decade ago,” Stillings said. “But long-term challenges remain for further population growth, including predators and weather patterns, and changes in habitat.”
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.