Published April 8, 2024

Bighorn Sheep Increase Continues

Written by
The Dakotan
| The Dakotan
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

ND Game and Fish Department

Fourth Consecutive Record Count of Bighorn Sheep
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2023 bighorn sheep survey, completed by recounting lambs in March, revealed a record 364 bighorn sheep in the grasslands of western North Dakota, up 5% from 2022 and 16% above the five-year average. The count surpassed the previous record of 347 bighorns in 2022.
Altogether, biologists counted 106 rams, 202 ewes and 56 lambs. Not included are approximately 40 bighorn sheep in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and bighorns introduced to the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in 2020.
Big game biologist Brett Wiedmann was pleased to see an increase in the survey for the sixth consecutive year.
The northern badlands population increased 5% from 2022 and was the highest count on record. The southern badlands population dropped to its lowest level since bighorns were reintroduced there in 1966.
“We were encouraged to see a record count of adult rams, and adult ewes and lambs were near record numbers,” Wiedmann said. “Unlike the population declines observed in most other big game species following the severe winter of 2022-23, the increase in the bighorn population was attributable to two factors: higher than expected survival of adults and lambs during the extreme winter conditions of 2022, and better than anticipated lamb production and survival during 2023. Basically, bighorn sheep are incredibly hardy animals that can thrive during North Dakota’s most frigid winters.”
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.
Currently, about 490 bighorns make up the populations managed by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, National Park Service and the Three Affiliated Tribes Fish and Wildlife Division, just shy of the benchmark of 500 bighorns in the state.
A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled to open in 2024.The status of the season will be determined Sept. 1, following the summer population survey.
Game and Fish issued six licenses in 2023 and all hunters were successful in harvesting a ram.

Paddlefish Tags Online
North Dakota’s paddlefish snagging season opens May 1, and snaggers should be aware of the sale and distribution of paddlefish tags.
Paddlefish tags are available for purchase online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov, at license vendors, and during business hours at Game and Fish Department offices in Bismarck, Dickinson, Jamestown, Devils Lake, Lonetree (Harvey) and Williston.
Snaggers buying tags online have the option to have the tag mailed or can stop at a district office and pick it up during business hours.
Snaggers purchasing a tag at a vendor or having it mailed should plan accordingly and allow for a few days for delivery.

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