Viral disease reduces deer hunt licenses in North Dakota

May 11, 2022

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The number of licenses for this year’s deer hunt in North Dakota has been reduced because of an outbreak of a viral disease last year.

The state Game and Fish Department is making 64,200 licenses available, down 8,000 from last year.

“Epizootic hemorrhagic disease dramatically reduced white-tailed deer numbers along the Missouri River and parts of some western hunting units” in 2021, department Wildlife Chief Casey Anderson said. “As a result, license allocations in some units were dramatically reduced.”

The drought in North Dakota last year created perfect breeding areas for biting gnats that transmit the disease. It impacts white-tailed deer more than mule deer, due to the makeup of the animals. It’s not considered a danger to people.

The disease also impacted the success of hunters during last November’s gun season. Overall success fell sharply from 68% in 2020 to 57% in 2021, and was below the state’s threshold for a “good” season for the 13th consecutive year.

The department’s recent five-year goal of getting annual licenses to the 75,000 mark expired last year. Officials are reviewing the goal given things that weren’t factored into it, such as an increase of chronic wasting disease, according to Anderson.

“In the five-year goal we had, we were fairly conservative with deer licenses, on the cautious side; with CWD that’s not necessarily the case,” he said.