DOUG LEIER ND Game and Fish Department
Most people think of fish and wildlife surveys in terms of a netting test to determine the success of stocking or the number of pheasant rooster calls as an indication of pre-hunt bird populations, but this fall, a few key findings from Game and Fish Department surveys were assessed.
With so many different species and populations, space does not allow us to provide all the information, so here is the latest snapshot.
The Game and Fish fall mule deer survey indicated that drought had a major influence on calf production.
Biologists counted 2,163 mule deer during the October aerial survey. The ratio of 60 calves per 100 goats was significantly lower than last year (82/100) and the long-term average (88/100), while 38 males per 100 goats was similar to 2020 (36 / 100) and the long-term average. term (43/100).
âThis year’s number was the lowest fawn-to-bee ratio since 2011 and 2012, after the harsh winters of 2008-2010,â said Bruce Stillings, Big Game Management Supervisor at Dickinson. “Nutritional stress from the drought was also apparent, with many more yearlings seen as spikes rather than split ends.”
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Snowfall and windy conditions during the investigation limited biologists to 20 of the 24 study areas, Stillings said.
The fall aerial survey, conducted specifically to study demographics, covers 24 study areas and 306.3 square miles in western North Dakota. Biologists also survey the same study areas in the spring of each year to determine deer abundance.
Fishing crews completed their annual salmon spawning operation on the Missouri River system, collecting more than 1.8 million eggs.
Game and fish Missouri River System fisheries biologist Russ Kinzler said crews collected enough eggs to store 400,000 smolts slated for Lake Sakakawea in 2022.
The majority of the eggs were collected from Lake Sakakawea, with a significant contribution from the Missouri River downstream of the Garrison Dam. The average size of female salmon was 7.4 pounds, about 1 pound less than last year. This year’s biggest salmon weighed around 14.5 pounds, about 2 pounds heavier than last year’s biggest salmon.
âWe had a good number and a good size of Rainbow Smelt, which is the main forage for salmon in Lake Sakakawea,â Kinzler said. “This has led to bigger salmon over the past couple of years.”
Chinook salmon begin their spawning period in October. Since salmon cannot reproduce naturally in North Dakota, Game and Fish staff capture the fish and transport them to the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, where they are stripped of their eggs.
Once the eggs have hatched, the young salmon spend approximately 6 months in the hatchery before being stocked in Sakakawea Lake.
To learn more about the different species and populations of fish and wildlife as well as conservation, non-game and other information, visit the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov.
Doug Leier is a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.