Mule Deer Trend Remains Positive

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The positive population trend for North Dakota's mule deer continues, based on observations by biologists for the State Game and Fish Department during the recent fall reproduction survey. Two primary indicators - ratio of fawns per doe, and total number of deer observed - both increased from last year, according to Bruce Stillings, department big game biologist, Dickinson.

Observers who accompanied pilots in fixed-wing planes counted 1,496 mule deer during the October 2002 survey, which encompassed 17 study areas and 235 square miles in western North Dakota.

The fawn-to-doe ratio was 0.93 fawns per doe, good news after last year's below average reproduction, Stillings said. The buck-to-doe ratio was 0.39 bucks per doe, and remains stable throughout the badlands' mule deer range.

"Over the last few years our surveys indicated an increasing population with stable recruitment," Stillings said. "We will evaluate the number of deer on the landscape in April, when we fly these same study areas, to obtain an index to the mule deer population."

"With a series of relatively mild winters and conservative harvest strategies," Stillings continued, "we are observing positive trends in our mule deer population."