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Published June 07, 2010, 03:58 PM

Decline in ND deer numbers should help ag producers

The number of deer in North Dakota is dropping — good news for farmers and livestock producers in parts of the state where deer have caused problems.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

The number of deer in North Dakota is dropping — good news for farmers and livestock producers in parts of the state where deer have caused problems.

“They can do real damage in the small areas they frequent,” says Brad Brummond, extension agent in North Dakota’s Walsh County, where deer have been a concern.

This year the state has 116,775 deer licenses available for hunters in the fall. That’s 27,625 fewer than a year ago.

License availability

The state’s deer gun license application deadline was June 2, and most of the licenses are expected to be filled, says Randy Kreil, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

The decline in available licenses reflects the drop in deer numbers after two tough winters and low reproductive success, he says.

Deer numbers are down sharply in hunting units 2C and 2F1, two areas in which deer have long troubled agricultural producers.

Unit 2C, in the northeastern part of the state, runs north of U.S. Highway 2 to the Canadian border and is bordered on the east by the Red River. Walsh County is in 2C.

Unit 2F1 is in the east-central part of the state and consists of parts of Nelson, Eddy, Foster and Griggs counties.

In recent years, deer have damaged growing crops and hurt ranchers’ hay supplies during the winter in Griggs County, says John Swenson, extension agent there.

But deer numbers definitely seem to have dropped in Griggs County, he says.

‘A fact of life’

Deer don’t do major damage to crops in general, but can ravage fields along river bends and other places they spend time, Brummond says.

Livestock producers have expressed concern that high deer numbers put cattle at greater disease risk, he says.

Deer also are a threat to motorists and a major irritant to county residents, he says.

“It’s just a fact of life in Walsh County that if you want to plant a garden, you need a fence to protect it from the deer,” Brummond says.

Kreil says his department decided to reduce the number of deer licenses after meeting with landowners, who agreed that deer numbers have declined and that offering fewer licenses was appropriate.

Landowners typically have a strong interest in the fall deer hunting season, he says.

“Most landowners hunt deer, or at least have members of their family who hunt,” he says.

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