Wildlife impacts from drought

Published: Oct. 10, 2021 at 5:41 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - In this week’s segment of North Dakota Outdoors, Mike Anderson tells us how our state’s wildlife and fisheries are holding up during drought conditions.

A record number of days over 100 degrees and little moisture fueled drought conditions over most of North Dakota.

“It’s a pretty bad drought. Realistically, we’ve been looking at almost two years of it when you look at rainfall and stuff now, last year wasn’t quite as hot as 2021 was,” said NDGF wildlife division chief Casey Anderson.

Drought undoubtedly staggered wildlife populations and their habitat.

“So you end up with low quality habitat, which means low quality food sources, you know, water that’s maybe scarce or lower quality. Wildlife out there end up having to not be able to thrive like they normally do in your spring and summers where they add fat, they build up, they have large broods, good nesting cover,” said Anderson.

And drought conditions also can affect our state’s fisheries, too.

“We got through the summer without really any substantial summer kill. Given how hot and dry it was, we totally expected to have half a dozen, ten lakes maybe with some type of maybe even substantial kills, especially pike lakes. Didn’t see it so that’s good news,” said NDHG fisheries division chief Greg Power.

Not surprisingly, water levels in many fisheries around the state have declined.

“We’re down, again, generally as a general rule, two to five feet from where we were two years ago. So if the lake is only 12 feet max depth, that becomes very concerning,” said Power.

What Mother Nature provides for moisture this winter, will determine how boating access will be next year.

“We got through this summer, surprisingly in decent shape. But that’s certainly going to be a big deal come 2022 is just trying to maintain what we got out there,” said Power.

Power says fish populations are still in good shape throughout most of the state.

“And that’s why it would be really a bad deal if we lost them to winter kill versus lose them to an angler. We got strong populations of fish throughout most of the state and in particular, these new walleye lakes, we’re in really good shape there,” said Power.

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