State wildlife managers are reporting positive spring recruitment of white-tail deer and elk in Northwest Montana while mule deer populations appear worrisome.
Deer and elk populations are greatly influenced by winter and early spring weather. White-tailed deer populations were low in 2010 following a rough winter but have steadily increased over the last five years due to mild winters and good survival of fawns, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. In 2016, fawn recruitment ranged from 37 fawns per 100 adults in the Swan (HD 130) to 62 fawns per 100 adults in HD 170 near Kalispell. Recruitment rates ranging from the mid 30s to over 50 fawns per 100 adults indicate the population is increasing and could potentially double over the next 2-3 years, FWP said.
FWP biologists are concerned with population trends for mule deer in this region, and numbers are generally thought to have declined over the last 8-10 years. Habitat changes and predation are largely considered reasons for these declines. Although numbers of mule deer seem to be below long-term average, the 2016 recruitment rates in some hunting districts are encouraging, FWP said.
For elk, recruitment rates were considered to be good in HD 103, HD 121, and HD 123. Elk calf recruitment in the Bob Marshall increased to 19 calves per 100 cows, which is the highest it has been since 2012. Bull ratios for elk in all the survey areas ranged between 11 and 15 bulls per 100 cows in 2016 spring green-up surveys.
In 2015, a total of 666 black bears, including 193 female and 473 males, were legally harvested in Region 1. Numbers of harvested bears has not exceeded 600 since 2004 when 642 total black bears were harvested. In addition to high harvest numbers, a high number of bears were killed in conflicts with humans and for other reasons. Approximately 53 black bears were killed for management (conflict), in collisions with vehicles, or illegally harvested in 2015, compared to 31 in 2014.