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The Ministry conducts a survey in the spring every year to see how many survived the winter. In 2011 they counted 18 fawns for every 100 does, down from 43 the year before and 37 in 2009. Wildlife Biologist Conrad Thiesson says the drop can mostly be attributed to the longer than usual winter.

“They fatten up during the summer and fall, and in the winter they don’t have the same access to the forage, so their energy reserves are decreasing during the winter. If spring doesn’t come, they’re at the end of their resources.”

Mule deer population change can be unpredictable and extreme as they are negatively affected by winter weather conditions. Although the numbers rose in 2010 from 2009, the Ministry says the population has decreased by approximately 35 per cent since 2005.

In addition, starting in 2007, the mule hunting season was made more liberal, with a month-long season and less restrictions. This was due to a large number of mule deer that were destroying some farmers’ crop.

Meeting with farmers, the Ministry set targets to reduce the population 50 per cent from the peak numbers in 2005. Thiesson believes they have “reached or exceeded” that goal, and are now focused on maintaining the numbers they have, without reducing further.

“We don’t ever want to see those low numbers”, he argues, adding that the reduction target was a compromise between hunters who want more deer and ranchers who want less. For the 2010/2011 season, regulations were changed so that the antlerless, or female, deer hunting season has been shortened to just five days, from November 15 to November 20.

The next wildlife count is scheduled for January 15, 2012, where volunteers survey sections of land to help keep accurate wildlife records. Anyone interested in getting involved with the wildlife count can contact the Ministry at 250-787-3411 and ask for Nick, Lori or Conrad.

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