The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual bighorn sheep survey revealed a minimum of 293 bighorn sheep in western North Dakota, virtually unchanged from the previous count of 297.
In total, biologists counted 85 rams, 159 ewes and 49 lambs. Not included are 24 bighorn sheep introduced from Alberta in February, and approximately 30 bighorns in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Big game biologist Brett Wiedmann said the count in the northern badlands was the highest on record, beating the previous record set in 2012, but the southern badlands population declined 15 percent.
“Rams and lambs showed a slight decline, but adult ewes increased,” Wiedmann said. “About 75 percent of lambs counted during last summer’s survey survived the winter, which is about average, but the recruitment rate of 37 percent was above average.”
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.
Wiedmann is encouraged by another year of healthy numbers of lambs because it is indicative of a healthy population. “Adult mortality was also low last winter, so we expect another good crop of lambs to begin hitting the ground within a few weeks,” he said.
Game and Fish allocated five bighorn sheep hunting licenses for 2014, one more than 2013.