Magic Valley Region Deer Populations Increase

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Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists are seeing more mule deer this spring in the Magic Valley Region. Aerial counts show an increase of 45 percent more deer compared to data collected in 2003.

Biologists in 2003 counted 7,778 deer, while this year's count showed 11,304 deer. The increase is attributed to better fawn recruitment.

Annual mule deer surveys are conducted in trend areas to monitor population status. In the Magic Valley Region this spring, surveys were completed for the Bennett Hills in Unit 45, and Units 54, 55, 56, and 57.

Deer from Units 43, 44, 45, 52, and part of Unit 48 migrate into the Bennett Hills to spend the winter. Counts conducted in this area provide deer trend information for much of the Magic Valley Region's northern units. The number of deer wintering on the Bennett Hills increased 32 percent from last year's counts.

This increase in deer numbers and the observed pre-winter ratio of 34 bucks per 100 does suggest a healthy deer population and the prospect of a good hunting season this fall.

Similarly, data collected this winter indicate improving deer numbers in Unit 49. Trend surveys conducted in Unit 50, where a substantial number of Unit 49 deer winter, suggest this population has also grown over the past couple of years.

Buck ratios have also improved in Unit 49 and are meeting the management objective of 15 bucks per 100 does in the early winter survey.

The increase in deer numbers throughout the northern Magic Valley units allowed Fish and Game Commissioners to increase in the number of antlerless hunting permits for the 2004 hunting season. Antlerless permit levels are set to allow continued deer herd growth while giving hunters expanded opportunities. Antlerless deer hunting is also a population control tool used to minimize crop depredations on private lands.

In the southern portion of the Magic Valley Region, deer herds have struggled since the decline in 1992-93. Fire and drought have played major roles in prohibiting increases in deer numbers.

Recent surveys indicate increasing deer numbers in all the Magic Valley Region's southern Units. In Unit 54, biologist counted the highest number of deer since 1996. In the Unit 55 trend area, the deer count was the highest it has been in the past 10 years. Similarly, counts in Unit 56 increased to 2000-01 levels after declining last year from a die-off during the 2001-02 winter.

There is no youth antlerless hunt in Unit 56 this season. For the youth either-sex hunt in units 46, 47, 54, 55, and 57, 100 more permits were add. Biologists are being cautious on permit numbers to allow the herds to increase at the maximum rate that habitat and weather will permit.