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South Dakota Reacts to Drop in Antelope Numbers

August 28, 2009.

From the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission:

A tough winter and low reproduction this summer has resulted in a lower then expected antelope population in northwestern South Dakota, and that will mean fewer licenses available to hunters.

Aerial surveys were conducted during the month of May and June to estimate the number of adult antelope. However another important aspect in estimating the antelope population in South Dakota is a count of the number of fawns per doe, which is not available at the time that the Game, Fish and Parks commission sets the antelope season. 

Substantially lower recruitment rates obtained in recent doe/fawn antelope surveys, coupled with lower overall antelope numbers has prompted GFP to eliminate all unsold licenses remaining after the first two drawings for Harding and Perkins counties, where current estimates show a considerable drop in the antelope population compared to 2008.

“Over the past few years we have attempted to increase harvest due to high antelope numbers in the northwest corner of the state,” GFP Terrestrial Program Administrator Chad Switzer said. “Because of that effort and abundant antelope, hunters have had many opportunities in Harding and Perkins County to harvest antelope.”

A few areas have an increased antelope population, but overall, numbers have decreased approximately 20 percent throughout their range. Surveys in Harding and Perkins counties indicate as much as a 50 percent decline.

“Through the years we have seen our antelope numbers rise and fall, often in the span of a short period of time,” Switzer said, adding that allowing the initial sale of licenses to proceed will still provide hunting opportunity and help keep the antelope population in check.

“Even though the challenge of an antelope hunt will be greater this year then last, South Dakota still has one of the best antelope populations in the country” Switzer said. “The prairie is as lush as it has been in some time. It will be a great chance to leave your vehicle parked, and walk in and enjoy a truly unique hunting experience.  As always, hunters should be sure to get permission before hunting on any private land.”



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