The North Dakota Game and Fish Department conducted its annual spring mule deer survey in April and results indicate western North Dakotaâ€™s mule deer population has decreased for the fourth consecutive year.
Biologists counted 1,756 mule deer in 293.8 square miles during this yearâ€™s survey. Overall mule deer density in the badlands was six deer per square mile, which is down from 7.8 deer per square mile in 2010 and less than the long-term average of 6.9 deer per square mile.
Three years of harsh winter conditions have increased adult mortality and reduced production. The last two years have resulted in the two lowest production rates ever documented, and biologists expect this yearâ€™s production to be similarly low.
Conversely, white-tailed deer abundance in the badlands has increased during the last five years.
The spring mule deer index is used to assess mule deer abundance in the badlands. It is typically 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.