Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Bighorn Sheep Population Up from Last Year

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2019 bighorn sheep survey, completed by recounting lambs in March, revealed a minimum of 290 bighorn sheep in western North Dakota, up 2 percent from 2018 and 3 percent above the five-year average.

Altogether, biologists counted 77 rams, 162 ewes and 51 lambs. Not included are approximately 30 bighorn sheep in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and 30 bighorns recently translocated to the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Big game biologist Brett Wiedmann was pleased to see another increase in the survey, following a decline in 2017.

“The increase in the 2019 count reflects lessening effects of bacterial pneumonia that was detected in 2014,” Wiedmann said.

The northern badlands population increased 12 percent from 2018 and was the highest count on record. The southern badlands population declined again to the lowest level since 1999.

“The total count of adult rams unfortunately declined for a fourth consecutive year in 2019, but adult ewes remained near record numbers,” Wiedmann said. “Most encouraging was the significant increase in the lamb count and recruitment rate following record lows in 2016 and 2017.”

Game and Fish Department biologists count and classify all bighorn sheep in late summer, and then recount lambs the following March, as they approach one year of age, to determine recruitment.

“Fortunately, annual survival rates of adult bighorns are very high and similar to those prior to the die-off, and lamb survival continues to improve, which could indicate the population is becoming somewhat resilient to the deadly pathogens first observed in 2014,” Wiedmann said. “The deadly pathogen, Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, has not been detected the last two years in most of the northern herds via annual disease testing and none are currently showing symptoms of pneumonia. However, the next few years will be important in determining if the state’s population shows signs of recovering from the disease outbreak, or if the pathogens are likely to persist and cause a long-term population decline.”

Game and Fish wildlife veterinarian Dr. Charlie Bahnson said that four of the 25 adult bighorns tested for the deadly pathogens last winter were positive.

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2020, unless there is a recurrence of significant adult mortality from bacterial pneumonia. The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determined Sept. 1, after the summer population survey is completed.

Game and Fish issued five licenses in 2019 and all hunters were successful in harvesting a ram.

Bighorn Sheep Population Up from Last Year

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2019 bighorn sheep survey, completed by recounting lambs in March, revealed a minimum of 290 bighorn sheep in western North Dakota, up 2 percent from 2018 and 3 percent above the five-year average.

Altogether, biologists counted 77 rams, 162 ewes and 51 lambs. Not included are approximately 30 bighorn sheep in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and 30 bighorns recently translocated to the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Big game biologist Brett Wiedmann was pleased to see another increase in the survey, following a decline in 2017.

“The increase in the 2019 count reflects lessening effects of bacterial pneumonia that was detected in 2014,” Wiedmann said.

The northern badlands population increased 12 percent from 2018 and was the highest count on record. The southern badlands population declined again to the lowest level since 1999.

“The total count of adult rams unfortunately declined for a fourth consecutive year in 2019, but adult ewes remained near record numbers,” Wiedmann said. “Most encouraging was the significant increase in the lamb count and recruitment rate following record lows in 2016 and 2017.”

Game and Fish Department biologists count and classify all bighorn sheep in late summer, and then recount lambs the following March, as they approach one year of age, to determine recruitment.

“Fortunately, annual survival rates of adult bighorns are very high and similar to those prior to the die-off, and lamb survival continues to improve, which could indicate the population is becoming somewhat resilient to the deadly pathogens first observed in 2014,” Wiedmann said. “The deadly pathogen, Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, has not been detected the last two years in most of the northern herds via annual disease testing and none are currently showing symptoms of pneumonia. However, the next few years will be important in determining if the state’s population shows signs of recovering from the disease outbreak, or if the pathogens are likely to persist and cause a long-term population decline.”

Game and Fish wildlife veterinarian Dr. Charlie Bahnson said that four of the 25 adult bighorns tested for the deadly pathogens last winter were positive.

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2020, unless there is a recurrence of significant adult mortality from bacterial pneumonia. The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determined Sept. 1, after the summer population survey is completed.

Game and Fish issued five licenses in 2019 and all hunters were successful in harvesting a ram.

Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep Applications Online

Elk, moose and bighorn sheep applications are available online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov. The deadline to apply is March 25.

A total of 523 elk licenses are available to hunters this fall, an increase of 45 from last year.

A total of 474 moose licenses are available, a decrease of five from last year. Hunting units M1C and M4 will remain closed due to a continued downward trend in moose numbers in the northeastern part of the state.

As stated in the 2020-21 chronic wasting disease proclamation, hunters harvesting an elk in units E2 and E6, or a moose in units M10 and M11, cannot transport the whole carcass including the head and spinal column outside of the unit.

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2020, depending on the sheep population. The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determined Sept. 1, after summer population surveys are completed. The season was closed in 2015 due to a bacterial pneumonia outbreak.

Bighorn sheep applicants must apply for a license at the same time as moose and elk, but not for a specific unit. Once total licenses are determined for each unit in late summer, the bighorn lottery will be held and successful applicants contacted to select a hunting unit.

Because the bighorn sheep application fee is not refundable per state law, if a bighorn season is not held, applicants would not receive a refund.

Elk, moose and bighorn sheep lottery licenses are issued as once-in-a-lifetime licenses in North Dakota. Hunters who have received a license through the lottery in the past are not eligible to apply for that species again

2019 Bighorn Sheep, Moose and Elk Harvests

Harvest statistics released by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department show overall hunter success during the 2019 season for bighorn sheep was 100 percent, 87 percent for moose and 62 percent for elk.

 

The department issued four bighorn sheep licenses and auctioned one. All five hunters harvested a bighorn ram.

 

The department issued 475 moose licenses last year. Of that total, 449 hunters harvested 389 animals – 154 bulls and 235 cows/calves. Harvest for each unit follows:

 

Unit Hunters Bulls Cow/Calf Success Rate
M5 5 4 0 80
M6 15 10 1 73
M8 15 13 1 93
M9 114 29 61 79
M10M11 180120 5840 10765 9288

 

The department issued 487 elk licenses last year. Of that total, 449 hunters harvested 279 elk – 155 bulls and 124 cows/calves. Harvest for each unit follows:

 

Unit Hunters Bulls Cow/Calf Success Rate
E1EE1W 8552 2215 2716 5860
E2 128 34 30 50
E3 150 66 46 75
E4E6 2212 144 05 6475

 

Game and Fish Allocates Five Bighorn Sheep Licenses

The Game and Fish Department is allocating five bighorn sheep licenses for the 2019 hunting season, two more than last year.

Three licenses are issued in unit B1 and a portion of B3, and one license is valid for units B3 and B4. Also, one license, as authorized under North Dakota Century Code, was auctioned in March by the Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation, from which all proceeds are used to enhance bighorn sheep management in North Dakota.

The number of once-in-a-lifetime licenses allotted to hunters is based on data collected from the Game and Fish Department’s summer population survey. Brett Wiedmann, big game management biologist in Dickinson, said results showed a 10 percent decline in ram numbers from 2018, with the population dominated by young rams.

“Our objective this hunting season is to reduce the number of rams in the southern badlands, to lessen the risk of transmitting disease to the northern population,” Wiedmann said, while mentioning the concern is the ongoing effects of the bacterial pneumonia outbreak that was first detected in 2014, which resulted in a loss of 15-20% of the adult population. ”Moving forward, our intention is to have the southern badlands wild sheep herd as a discussion item during our fall district advisory board meetings.”

Wiedmann noted there are more than 300 bighorn sheep north of Interstate 94, but only 20 south of the interstate.

Game and Fish announced in February the status of the bighorn sheep hunting season would be determined after completion of the summer population survey. Now that the survey is complete, the bighorn lottery was held and successful applicants have been notified.

Prospective hunters were required to apply for a bighorn license earlier this year on the bighorn sheep, moose and elk application. A record 15,518 applicants applied for bighorn sheep.

 

Bighorn Sheep Population Up from Last Year

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2018 bighorn sheep survey, completed by recounting lambs in March, revealed a minimum of 283 bighorn sheep in western North Dakota, up 7 percent from 2017 and equal to the five-year average.

 

Altogether, biologists counted 84 rams, 161 ewes and 38 lambs. Not included are approximately 20 bighorns in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

 

Big game biologist Brett Wiedmann was pleased to see an increase in the survey, following a decline in 2017.

 

“The increase in the 2018 count reflects lessening effects of bacterial pneumonia that was detected in 2014,” Wiedmann said.

 

The northern badlands population increased 9 percent from 2017 and was the second highest count on record. The southern badlands population declined again to the lowest level since 1999.

 

“The total count of adult rams declined in 2018 but adult ewes increased,” Wiedmann said. “Most encouragingly was the significant increase in the lamb count and recruitment rate following record lows in 2016 and 2017.”

 

Game and Fish Department biologists count and classify all bighorn sheep in late summer, and then recount lambs the following March, as they approach one year of age, to determine recruitment.

 

“Fortunately, annual survival rates of adult bighorns are similar to those prior to the die-off and lamb survival is improving, which could indicate the population is becoming somewhat resilient to the deadly pathogens first observed in 2014,” Wiedmann said. “The next few years will be important in determining if the state’s population shows signs of recovering from the disease outbreak, or if the pathogens are likely to persist and cause a long-term population decline.”

 

Game and Fish wildlife veterinarian Dr. Charlie Bahnson said that four of the 15 adult bighorns tested for the deadly pathogens last winter were positive.

 

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2019, unless there is a recurrence of significant adult mortality from bacterial pneumonia. The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determined Sept. 1, after the summer population survey is completed.

 

Game and Fish issued three licenses in 2018 and all hunters were successful in harvesting a ram.

Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep Apps due March 27

North Dakotan’s who want to hunt elk, moose and bighorn sheep in 2019 are reminded the deadline for submitting applications is March 27.

 

Prospective hunters can apply online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov. General lottery applications can also be submitted by calling 800-406-6409. Preferential landowner (gratis) applications must be submitted online. Paper applications are not available.

 

The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determined Sept. 1, after summer population surveys are completed. However, bighorn sheep applications must be submitted before the deadline. Once total licenses are determined for each unit in late summer, the bighorn lottery will then be held and successful applicants will be contacted to select a hunting unit.

 

Elk, moose and bighorn sheep lottery licenses are issued as once-in-a-lifetime licenses in North Dakota. Hunters who have received a license through the lottery in the past are not eligible to apply for that species again.

Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep Applications Online

North Dakota’s elk, moose and bighorn sheep applications are available, and prospective hunters can apply online at the state Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.

General lottery applications can also be submitted by calling 800-406-6409. Preferential landowner (gratis) applications must be submitted online. Paper applications are not available.

The deadline for applying is March 27.

A total of 478 elk licenses are available to hunters this fall, an increase of 70 from last year and the most since 2011.

Coordination among state Game and Fish, private landowners and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will continue to highlight elk management in hunting Unit E6.

A record 479 moose licenses are available in 2019, an increase of 145 from last year. Most of the increase is antlerless licenses in units M9, M10 and M11, due to an increasing moose population in these units.

Hunting units M1C and M4 will remain closed due to a continued downward trend in moose numbers in the northeastern part of the state.

As stated in the 2019-20 chronic wasting disease proclamation, hunters harvesting an elk in unit E6 or a moose in unit M10 cannot transport the whole carcass including the head and spinal column outside of the unit. More information on CWD is available by visiting the Game and Fish website.

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2019, depending on the sheep population. The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determined Sept. 1, after summer population surveys are completed. The season was closed in 2015 due to a bacterial pneumonia outbreak.

Bighorn sheep applicants must apply for a license at the same time as moose and elk, but not for a specific unit. Once total licenses are determined for each unit in late summer, the bighorn lottery will then be held and successful applicants contacted to select a hunting unit.

Because the bighorn sheep application fee is not refundable as per state law, if a bighorn season is not held, applicants would not receive a refund.

Elk, moose and bighorn sheep lottery licenses are issued as once-in-a-lifetime licenses in North Dakota. Hunters who have received a license through the lottery in the past are not eligible to apply for that species again.

2018 Bighorn Sheep, Moose and Elk Harvests

Harvest statistics released by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department show overall hunter success during the 2018 season for bighorn sheep was 100 percent, 92 percent for moose and 65 percent for elk.

 

The department issued two bighorn sheep licenses and auctioned one. All three hunters harvested a bighorn ram.

 

The department issued 329 moose licenses last year. Of that total, 319 hunters harvested 294 animals – 138 bulls and 156 cows/calves. Harvest for each unit follows:

 

Unit Hunters Bulls Cow/Calf Success Rate
M5 5 3 1 80
M6 14 9 3 86
M8 14 13 0 93
M9 93 34 49 89
M10

M11

107

86

50

29

52

51

95

93

 

The department issued 418 elk licenses last year. Of that total, 380 hunters harvested 248 elk – 135 bulls and 113 cows/calves. Harvest for each unit follows:

 

Unit Hunters Bulls Cow/Calf Success Rate
E1E

E1W

57

37

17

10

16

17

58

73

E2 128 35 35 55
E3 125 52 40 74
E4

E6

22

11

17

4

0

5

77

82