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N.D. mule deer numbers rise

BISMARCK (AP) — Mule deer production in North Dakota this year rose substantially from 2012 for several reasons, the state Game and Fish Department says.

Biologists who conducted an annual fall aerial survey last month counted 1,761 mule deer, compared to 1,224 last year —an increase of 44 percent, according to the wildlife agency.

The buck-to-doe ratio of 0.46 was similar to the long-term average of 0.43. The fawn-to-doe ratio of 0.74 was below the long-term average of 0.91 but still the highest since 2009.

Game and Fish last year did not issue hunting licenses for antlerless mule deer after reports of fewer animals. There also will be no doe season for mule deer this year.

Bruce Stillings, big game supervisor in Dickinson for Game and Fish, said that was a factor in higher mule deer production in the western Badlands this year, along with milder winter conditions over much of the mule deer range in 2011 and 2012.

“In addition, substantial rainfall this spring provided much improved habitat conditions for fawning this year compared to 2012,” he said.

Stillings said it is encouraging to see the short-term increase in mule deer numbers but that long-term challenges to population growth remain, including a deterioration of habitat due in part to booming energy development.