Nevada Board of Wildlife commissioners Friday and Saturday will discuss reducing the number of deer tags by 11 percent across the hunt spectrum and, with the exception of Desert (Nelson) and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, reductions in tag numbers for other big game species as well.
"Habitat condition is always the key element when it comes to wildlife. This recommended reduction in tag numbers is primarily the result of drought and the continuing impacts of wildfire and invasive plants like cheatgrass and red brome. Poor range conditions enhance the impacts of predation and other factors as well," said Russ Mason, Game Division Chief for NDOW.
"While we are recommending reductions in elk and antelope tags, the long-term growth in the populations of both species has been nothing short of spectacular over the past decade. And, despite the poor environmental conditions and two fairly major disease events last year, bighorn sheep populations are holding their own with Nevada second only to Alaska in wild sheep numbers in the United States," he said.
In 2007, there were 18,261 deer tags available to resident and nonresident hunters. If the commission chooses to adopt recommendations from NDOW wildlife biologists there will be 16,242 deer tags available in 2008, a reduction of 2,019 tags.
This reduction follows back-to-back deer surveys in which biologists documented very low fawn production.
During fall deer surveys we "classified more than 19,000 deer but documented one of the lowest fawn production values ever observed at 33 fawns per 100 adults. Spring surveys found the statewide average fawn-to-adult ratio to be just 26 fawns to 100 adults. Especially hard hit were the northeast, central and east-central portions of the state," said Mike Dobel, NDOW supervising game biologist in Reno.
The habitat conditions leading to low fawn production and survival rates this past year are similar to those that lead to low fawn recruitment (birth & survival rate) following the winter of 1992-93. In that circumstance, Dobel said, a drought period was followed by a heavy winter. Likewise, the winter of 2006-07 was very dry but the winter of 2007-08 had average to above average precipitation combined with extremely cold temperatures.
Statewide the estimated mule deer population is 108,000, a five percent decrease from the 2007 estimate. The 2008 tag quota recommendations are available on the NDOW website - www.ndow.org.