BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) — North Dakota Department of Game and Fisheries big game biologists have been conducting winter aerial surveys of deer for more than 50 years to monitor long-term population trends.
“We fly over surveillance blocks, and these blocks can range in size from 90 to over 1,200 square miles. And then when we see a group of deer we get up and hover over them trying not to run over them so we can get a good count and they don’t all mix together,” said biologist Bill Jensen. NDGF big game. .
Biologists need at least 12 inches of snow and full white ground conditions to see and count deer.
“We are rarely able to survey the entire state due to variable snow conditions. This year, we were able to identify 18 of the 33 hunting units that we established, surveillance blocks. Most of it was in the eastern third of the state and along the Canadian border,” Jensen said.
The last time aerial surveys were conducted was in 2019, due to the lack of suitable snow conditions in the past two years.
“Compared to 2019, it’s about the same for the most part, it’s kind of a mixed bag, some units are up, some are down, and most of them are just about about the same. However, when you look back to the early 2000s, from 2000 to 2005, we’re considerably lower than those years, mostly due to habitat loss,” Jensen said.
Aerial surveys are only one part of managing the state’s deer population and determining how many deer permits to make available to hunters.
“Instead of being able to do a winter aerial survey in a unit, we rely heavily on our harvest data and our hunter sighting reports, and we also rely heavily on local staff,” Jensen said.
If deer are near farms, biologists will keep a safe distance by flying higher to minimize disturbance to livestock.
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