North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department is making six bighorn sheep licenses available this year, amid continued record interest among hunters.
The six licenses are one more than last year. A record 20,290 hunters applied for one of the once-in-a-lifetime licenses. Successful applicants have been notified.
One license was issued in Unit B1 south of Interstate 94; and one in B3, two in B4 and one in B5, all north of the highway. The herd south of the interstate has been decimated by disease through the years and continues to struggle.
One license is traditionally given to the Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation to be auctioned off to raise money for sheep management.
The number of bighorn licenses allotted to hunters is based on data that Game and Fish collects from an annual summer population survey. Results of the summer count aren’t released until spring, when lambs are recounted to see how many survived the winter and became a permanent part of the herd.
The 2022 summer survey that was completed this past March showed 347 bighorns, up 4% from 2021 and 15% above the five-year average. It was the third straight year of record numbers. Not included were about 40 bighorns in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and bighorns introduced to the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in 2020.
An outbreak of deadly bacterial pneumonia eight years ago killed about three dozen sheep in the Badlands population and prompted Game and Fish to cancel bighorn hunting in 2015 for the first time in more than three decades. The agency reinstated hunting the following year but cautioned that it can take up to 15 years for disease to work its way out of a herd.
Game and Fish typically allocates fewer than 10 bighorn licenses per year. All five hunters who got a license last year were successful in harvesting a ram.
The 2023 bighorn season opens Nov. 3 and runs through the end of the year.
Source : Bismarck Tribune