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Mule Deer

Mule & White-tail Deer Aerial Surveys Are Out

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Glasfow, MT -( Aerial surveys of deer populations across northeastern Montana generally indicate a continuing increase in some numbers following several years of heavy weather-and-disease-related losses, state wildlife managers say.

For mule deer, 11 different trend areas in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ Region 6 are typically examined each year from the air. While total deer counts tend to be variable, FWP Biologist Scott Thompson of Malta said the 2014 surveys generally indicate mule deer in most areas are approaching long-term-average (LTA) numbers again.

Region 6 mule deer, white-tailed deer and pronghorn antelope numbers took a big hit in the severe winter of 2010-11, and additional mortality – especially among whitetails – was caused by subsequent, scattered outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, commonly known as EHD.

“Total mule deer observed across the region this year generally indicate deer population trend and status running about 10 percent below the LTA,” Thompson said. “The trend still shows an ongoing, gradual recovery across the Region.”

Thompson said mule deer numbers in the eastern third of Region 6; meaning the Northeast corner, are at or above the LTA. The center third of the Region; which includes the Glasgow and Malta areas, remains at or below the LTA. The same is true in the western third of the Region, which includes the Havre area.

Mule deer fawn-to-adult ratios, which indicate over-winter survival as well as recruitment into the population, this year have been pegged at 57 fawns to 100 adults across the Region, which is slightly above the LTA of 53 fawns to 100 adults. Thompson said the eastern third of Region 6 saw the highest number of fawns to adults.

“Figures taken from our deer surveys are only one factor in deer management recommendations,” Thompson explained. “Season-setting and quota-setting decisions made by the Fish & Wildlife Commission also consider prior year’s harvest, weather and habitat factors, as well as additional input gathered from landowners, hunters, the general public and other agencies.”

For the 2014 seasons, all Region 6 hunting districts will be managed under a restrictive mule deer season, which means only antlered mule deer bucks – or either-sex whitetails – can be taken with a “Deer A” license. Apart from some possible game-damage hunts where local populations are higher, antlerless mule deer “B” licenses will not be issued this year.

In regards to whitetails, Thompson said surveys have been completed in six areas across Region 6. This year’s surveys show that whitetail populations have decreased across the Region and are approximately 44 percent below the LTA. That means an average of six deer per square mile was found in these trend areas.

“Densities in the western portion of the Region are 42 percent below the LTA and are 44 percent below the LTA in the eastern section,” Thompson said. “In response to an EHD outbreak in the Havre area, a new whitetail trend area has also been established along the Milk River by Chinook to track trends in that area.”

A large peak in the Region 6 whitetail population was observed between 2008 and 2010, when numbers were observed to be 25 percent above the LTA. At the time, some whitetail densities hit an incredible 40 to 50 deer per square mile in some areas. But EHD outbreaks and other factors helped trim those numbers back considerably.

With whitetail numbers still relatively low, and in accordance with recent F&W Commission rule-setting, no antlerless “B” licenses will be available to hunters anywhere in Region 6 this fall.

About Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP)

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) through its employees and citizen commission, provides for the stewardship of the fish, wildlife, parks, and recreational resources of Montana, while contributing to the quality of life for present and future generations.

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