North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists recently completed the 2012 pronghorn population survey, which revealed the statewide population is 20 percent lower than last year. Therefore, the Game and Fish Department is recommending the pronghorn hunting season remain closed in 2012.
Bruce Stillings, big game supervisor in Dickinson, said the statewide population estimate has dropped to approximately 3,600 pronghorn. “Pronghorn in all four management regions decreased in numbers from last year and are well below population objectives,” he said.
According to Stillings, three severe winters from 2008-10, and virtually no fawn recruitment during 2009-11, left an aging population with few prime-aged breeding females. “The result was another poor fawn crop, but there were signs of recruitment with more yearlings being observed this year,” he added.
The recent scenario is similar to the large-scale pronghorn decline in the late 1970s. Three consecutive harsh winters beginning in 1977 prompted Game and Fish to close the season for four years, finally reopening in 1982.
The aerial survey is flown in late June/early July after young-of-the-year are born and visible. Five airplanes covered more than 11,000 square miles of aerial transects within pronghorn habitat.
Biologists will continue to monitor pronghorn numbers in the future, and will reopen the season when the population returns to a level capable of withstanding a harvest.
The 2012 pronghorn season will be closed to both gun and archery hunters. Applicants who have accumulated preference points will maintain their current points.