Annual aerial pronghorn survey

Published: Jul. 30, 2022 at 8:36 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Game and Fish Department big game biologists have finished the annual aerial pronghorn survey.

Pronghorn hunters in North Dakota will have more opportunities this fall.

“This year we will have 1,965 licenses available in the lottery and this is 245 more licenses than last year,” said NDGF big game supervisor Bruce Stillings.

Even though statewide numbers were up, the fawn-to-doe ratio was the lowest on record going back to when the surveys started in 1950.

“You really got to back up the last 18 to 24 months to see what these animals were living in, to see what kind of fawn production that they had in June. And the last 18 to 24 months has been extreme drought, animals would be in poor body condition. And then leading into that last trimester, we had two historic spring blizzards that’s going to really take a toll again on body condition and reproductive potential,” said Stillings.

The buck-to-doe ratio was OK during this year’s survey.

“35 bucks per 100 does, and we’d like to see it at at least 30 bucks per 100 does prior to the season,” said Stillings.

This is the first time since 2009 that all units west of the Missouri River are open to hunters.

“And it’s taken a long time for the population to recover since the 2008 through 2010 winters. And it’s just recently that we’ve been able to open hunting unit 9A, which is east of Watford City, and then 9C, which is north of New Salem,” said Stillings.

Biologists monitor pronghorn populations by conducting aerial surveys.

“We covered over 14,000 square miles, classified over 8,700 animals. And within those 8,700 animals, we had approximately 1,700 different pronghorn groups that we collected information on. And there was about 200 hours of actual survey time. So it’s a very large scale effort,” said Stillings.

With drought conditions in the rearview, habitat conditions are looking better for pronghorns.

To apply for a pronghorn license, go to gf.nd.gov. The deadline is Tuesday.

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