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 similar to last year and 21 percent above the long-term average. In 2020 it was up 7 percent compared to 2019 and 22 percent compared to the long-term average.
Biologists counted 2,671 mule deer in 306.3 square miles during this year’s survey. Overall mule deer density in the badlands was 8.7 deer per square mile. In 2020, 2,364 mule deer were tallied over 267.3 square miles, for a density of 8.8 deer per square mile.
Big game management supervisor Bruce Stillings said he is encouraged with current mule deer densities across the badlands.
“But we are concerned that mule deer are beginning the summer with poor rangeland conditions due to the extreme drought across the western part of the state, which could negatively affect fawn survival,” Stillings said.
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.
Portions of the 5/11/20 NDG&F Mule Deer Survey Press Release were used for comparison purposes with 2021 totals.