By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.
The turning of the calendar has many of us reflecting on the past year. The outdoors is no different. Here’s a few highlights from the State Game and Fish Department in 2019.
The Fish Department’s 72nd annual spring breeding duck survey conducted in May showed an index of 3.4 million birds, up 20 percent from 2018.
“Breeding duck numbers generally trend with wetland conditions,” according to Mike Szymanski, Game and Fish migratory game bird management supervisor. said. “The large number of ducks in North Dakota this spring can again be attributed to the large number of ducks that we have been producing for many years.”
North Dakota’s 2019 deer season featured 10,350 more licenses than in 2018.
Antlered mule deer licenses increased by 450 from last year, antlerless mule deer by 700, antlered whitetail by 700, antlerless whitetail by 1,250, “any antlered” by 3,150 and “any antlerless” by 4,100.
In addition, muzzleloader licenses increased by 184 and restricted youth antlered mule deer licenses increased by 45.
North Dakota’s 2019 pronghorn season also featured more licenses.
Bruce Stillings, Game and Fish big game management supervisor, said license numbers and open units were up from last year, with 1,330 licenses compared to 1,075, and 12 open units compared to 10 open.
“Our recently completed aerial survey indicated the pronghorn population is up 4 percent from last year,” Stillings said in July. “A combination of milder winter conditions since 2010-11, closed seasons from 2010-13, and improved fawn production and survival since 2013 have resulted in the population reaching a level that is able to support a higher harvest this fall.”
Fisheries personnel stocked more than 140 lakes across the state with walleye fingerlings.
The stocking effort in 2019 was one of the largest in the history of the agency. This included more than 11.3 million fingerlings from Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, besting the previous record walleye production by nearly 1 million fish.
Fisheries production and development section leader Jerry Weigel said a big year was needed from the Garrison Dam Hatchery.
“They had to make up for the production that couldn’t be used out of the Valley City National Fish Hatchery due to the recent zebra mussel discovery in Lake Ashtabula, which is the water source for the Valley City Hatchery,” Weigel said.
North Dakota’s late-summer roadside surveys indicated total pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge numbers were up from 2018.
R.J. Gross, Game and Fish upland game biologist, said the survey showed total pheasants observed per 100 miles were up 10% from last year. In addition, broods per 100 miles were up 17%, while the average brood size was down 5%. The final summary was based on 275 survey runs made along 101 brood routes across North Dakota.
Sharptails observed per 100 miles were up 113% statewide from 2018, and partridge were up 58%.“This was the first year in a while that we’ve had good residual cover to start the year, and good weather for nesting and brood-rearing,” Gross said.
Featured Photo: A notable increase in pronghorn populations was welcome news in 2019. NDG&F Photo.