Public comment sought on increase in mule deer license quota, range
After weathering a significant decline in recent years, the mule deer population in southeastern Montana is showing signs of a robust recovery. With populations well above long-term averages, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks proposes increasing the 2016 antlerless mule deer “B” license quota from 4,500 to 7,500 throughout Region 7.
The Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission endorsed that request during its June meeting in Dillon. Public comment will be accepted through Friday, June 24, at 5 p.m., and the Commission will vote during its July 13 meeting.
“Since 2012 we have had open winters, great browse recovery, and quickly. Our data is solid: we have lots of mule deer in Region 7 now.”
The commission also approved Region 7’s request to increase the biennial mule deer B license quota range from 5,500 to 11,000. Prior to the severe winters of 2010 and 2011, the upper quota range was 11,000. Based on positive spring surveys of mule deer, Region 7 is seeking to restore that ceiling in order to further increase mule deer B licenses for 2017 if needed. The public comment deadline for this is also June 24.
Back-to-back harsh winters in 2010 and 2011 drastically reduced mule deer numbers in Region 7. Spring surveys from 2012 conducted across 14 trend areas bottomed out at 61 percent of long-term average. In response to the decline, mule deer B tags were cut by 90 percent, then in 2014 a statewide moratorium on doe harvest was implemented. In 2015, B tags were available only in hunting districts with populations at or above long-term averages.
Since their low point in 2012, mule deer have been on a strong upward trajectory. Recently concluded aerial spring surveys show populations are 47 percent above long-term average, and fawn recruitment is 56 fawns per 100 adults. Last year was even better, with 67 fawns to 100 adults. This year’s overall counts are the highest recorded since 1998, with all hunting districts either near or above long-term average.
In its February meeting, the Fish & Wildlife Commission approved the return of either-sex/either-species general licenses, plus region-wide mule deer B licenses for 2016.
Supporting information and the online comment form can be found on the FWP website under opportunity for public comment at fwp.mt.gov/hunting/.