Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Bighorn Sheep Population Declines

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2017 bighorn sheep survey, completed by recounting lambs in March, revealed a minimum of 265 bighorn sheep in western North Dakota, down 11 percent from 2016 and 9 percent below the five-year average.

Altogether, biologists counted 91 rams, 149 ewes and 25 lambs. Not included are approximately 20 bighorns in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Big game biologist Brett Wiedmann said the survey count was the lowest since 2006.

“The decline in the 2017 count reflects the spread of bacterial pneumonia to three previously unaffected herds and consequently the adult and lamb mortalities that followed,” Wiedmann said.

The northern badlands population declined 10 percent from 2016, and the southern badlands population was down 21 percent.

“The total count of adult rams and ewes was much lower than the record high counts in 2016, but the lamb count and recruitment rate improved slightly in 2017, albeit still much below the long-term averages,” Wiedmann said.

Wiedmann noted that poor lamb survival is typical in populations exposed to Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, the pathogen responsible for most die-offs of bighorn sheep, and those effects can last many years.

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, adult mortality was low in previously affected herds, and lamb survival improved as well, which could indicate those herds initially exposed to the deadly pathogens in 2014 are beginning to recover,” 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.”

Dr. Dan Grove, Department veterinarian, said that 20 adult bighorn were tested for deadly pathogens last winter, but results are still pending. He said animals continue to succumb to pneumonia, albeit at a much slower rate.

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2018, 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 2017 and all hunters were successful harvesting a ram.

 

Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep Deadline March 28

North Dakotans who want to hunt elk, moose and bighorn sheep in 2018 are reminded the deadline for submitting applications is March 28.

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 no longer available for any lottery or gratis licenses, which will also include deer gun, pronghorn, swan and fall turkey.

 

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.

Doug.Leier2017a

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 no longer available for any lottery or gratis licenses, which will also include deer gun, pronghorn, swan and fall turkey.

The deadline for applying is March 28.

A total of 408 elk licenses are available to hunters this fall, an increase of 19 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 334 moose licenses are available in 2018, an increase of 89 from last year and 203 more than in 2015. Most of the increase is antlerless licenses in units 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.

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2018, depending on the sheep population. The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determinedSept. 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 will be 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.

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Tentative 2018 Season Opening Dates

Tentative 2018 Season Opening Dates

To help North Dakota hunters prepare for hunting seasons in 2018, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department annually provides its best estimate for opening dates for the coming year.

Dates become official when approved by governor’s proclamation. Tentative opening dates for 2018 include:

Spring Turkey April 14
Deer and Pronghorn Bow, Mountain Lion August 31
Dove September 1
Sharptail, Hun, Ruffed Grouse, Squirrel September 8
Youth Deer September 14
Youth Waterfowl September 15
Early Resident Waterfowl September 22
Regular Waterfowl, Youth Pheasant September 29
Pronghorn Gun October 5
Pheasant October 6
Fall Turkey October 13
Mink, Muskrat, Weasel Trapping October 27
Deer Gun November 9
Deer Muzzleloader November 30

 

Moose and Elk Lotteries Held, Bighorn Sheep in September

North Dakota’s moose and elk lottery results are available online at the state Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.

Applicants can find individual results by clicking “my account” under the buy and apply link.

Successful applicants will receive a letter the week of May 15, stating the license will be mailed after the successful applicant submits the correct license fee.

The bighorn sheep lottery is scheduled in September, after summer population surveys are completed and total licenses are determined. Once the lottery is held, successful applicants will be contacted to select a hunting unit.

Bighorn Sheep Population Stable

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s spring bighorn sheep survey revealed a minimum of 296 bighorn sheep in western North Dakota, up slightly from last year and 3 percent above the five-year average.

Altogether, biologists counted 104 rams, 170 ewes and 22 lambs. Not included are approximately 20 bighorns in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.photo by Craig Bihrle, ND    Game and Fish

Big game biologist Brett Wiedmann said the survey revealed both good and bad news after a sheep die-off that began in 2014.

“This year’s count of adult bighorn was encouraging given the ongoing effects of bacterial pneumonia throughout most of the badlands, but the lamb count was discouraging,” Wiedmann said.

The northern badlands population, which was hit the hardest from the die-off, increased 2 percent from last year. However, the southern badlands population was down 3 percent.

“The total count of adult rams and ewes was the highest on record, but the total count, recruitment rate and winter survival rate for lambs were all the lowest on record,” Wiedmann said. “The recruitment rate of lambs per adult ewes was 15 percent, well below the long-term average.”

Wiedmann noted that one year isn’t necessarily a trend, but poor lamb survival is typical in populations exposed to Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, the pathogen responsible for most die-offs of bighorn sheep, and those effects can last many years.

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.

“Adult mortality was low in 2016, and we had a good number of lambs survive in 2014 and 2015 to compensate for most of the adult losses in 2014,” Wiedmann said. “However, many bighorns are still showing signs of pneumonia and lamb recruitment was poor in 2016, so next year’s survey will be important in determining if the state’s population continues to recover from the disease outbreak, or if the pathogens are likely to persist and cause a long-term population decline.”

Dr. Dan Grove, Department veterinarian, said that 19 adult bighorn were tested for deadly pathogens last winter, but results are still pending. He said animals continue to succumb to pneumonia, albeit at a much slower rate.

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2017, 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 eight licenses in 2016 and all hunters were successful harvesting a ram.

Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep Apps Due March 22

Elk, moose and bighorn sheep applications must be submitted online, or postmarked, before midnight March 22.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND    Game and Fish

To apply online, visit the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website,gf.nd.gov. Paper applications are also available at vendors.

Individuals mailing applications to the department are advised to mail early because some post offices use the following day’s postmark for mail received after regular hours. The department’s online application feature will be deactivated March 22 at midnight.

Hunters who have received a license through the lottery in the past are not eligible to apply for that species again.

Have You Seen? Bighorn Sheep Update

 

 

Have you seen this week’s North Dakota Outdoors video?

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND     Game and Fish

Bighorn Sheep Update

This week North Dakota Game and Fish big game biologist Brett Wiedmann gives an update on the 2016 bighorn sheep hunting season.

You can watch the video right here: or http://gf.nd.gov/publications/television/outdoors-online-webcast

 

Find out more on bighorn sheep and hunting at the Game and Fish Department website hunting tab right here or here: https://gf.nd.gov/hunting

 

More video’s are available right here or http://gf.nd.gov/video