Montana Deer:  An estimated population of 524,467 in 2020, 513,941 in 2019, and 567,194 deer in 2018.  Down from  623,295 in 2017, but up from 507,953 deer in 2015 and 447,295 in 2014.   The harsh winter in 2016-17 reduced populations somewhat in the northwest.  Another harsh winter in 2017-18.  Mule deer populations have been in a long decline since the 1970's.  2021 Big Game Forecast.    Historical Montana deer hunting data and news archive.
Montana Deer News

What's New with Chronic Wasting Disease? September 17, 2021 Montana, Flathead Beacon
... FWP wildlife officials have tested 18,854 animal species since 2017, with 456 positive samples as of Sept. 13. The species sampled included 123 positive detections in mule deer, 327 positive detections in white-tailed deer, one elk, and two moose (these were Montana’s first detections in moose and wild elk..,

Big game hunting in southwest Montana could be shaped by drought, winter conditions September 1, 2021 Montana, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle
... Mild weather last winter meant survival among big game species was mostly good across southwest Montana ... Exceptional drought in southwest Montana during the summer months resulted in limited forage ...

Mule deer on the move: Study finds that they'll travel more than 50 miles to summer and winter ranges September 1, 2021 Montana, hungryhorsenews.com
... ‘Accessing high quality forage during summer is critical for mule deer because it strongly influences over-winter survival,” ... “In all study areas, mountain lion predation was the leading known cause of mortality, imposing 6-11% annual mortality upon adult females across regions,” ...

2021 Big Game Hunting Forecast  August 27, 2021 Montana Department of  Fish Wildlife and Parks News
... Northwest Montana experienced its second consecutive mild winter last year, which has resulted in good (above-average) fawn recruitment and adult survival for ... deer... Southwest Montana is experiencing exceptional drought this year..,

Elk Responses to Management Hunting and Hazing 2021 Journal of Wildlife Management, ...  The proportion of elk using conflict zones was reduced by hunting, modestly reduced by hazing and increasing snowpack for 1 study area, increased at night, and decreased by a seasonal trend across months. The time individual elk remained away from conflict zones increased with the number of hazing events that occurred during an event and showed a modest seasonal trend increasing across months.,,

... "While we don’t typically see a lot of direct mortality loss as a result of those fires, they certainly displace wildlife and then they wind up competing with other wildlife that already exists in other situations, ” ... Mild winters, that result in fire seasons like we’re dealing with now, also mean higher winter survival rates for the state's deer, elk, moose ...

Selling Out Wildlife During a Drought  August 6, 2021 Montana, CounterPunch
...The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MDFWP) announced that due to the extreme drought conditions across Montana, it would open up some wildlife management areas (WMA) to livestock grazing and haying...

Drought likely to shape Montana's hunting seasons August 2, 2021 Montana, Independent Record
... Most big game herds fared pretty well following a mild winter by Montana standards... Persistent drought this summer affected green up ...Whitetails overall seem to be doing better than mule deer and elk tend to be less sensitive to extreme summer conditions,..,

... The project is designed to protect key winter range and a prominent migration corridor for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and moose... Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is seeking public comment on a proposal to purchase a conservation easement ...

FWP seeks comment on several wildlife-related proposals June 29, 2021 Montana, FWP News
     Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public review and comment on several wildlife-related items approved for comment during the recent Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting. Proposals include the 2021 wolf hunting and trapping season, nongame check-off workplan, pheasant releases, Jordan urban wildlife plan, 2021 elk and deer muzzleloader season, 2021 elk shoulder season and 2021 contractual public elk hunting access agreements.  More information on these items can be found on the FWP website under “Public Comment Opportunities” at https://fwp.mt.gov/hunt/public-comment-opportunities...

... looks to turn back the clock by removing or killing conifers that have encroached on the grasslands on the elk winter range over the last 80 years... The smaller trees will be cut, piled and burned. The larger trees — some are over 60 years old — will be girdled and left to fall over in time...

State takes aim on scents, lures in battle with CWD June 17,2021 Montana, Daily Inter Lake
... In an effort to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is poised to curb the use of cover scents and lures hunters use in pursuit of game animals...

Libby approves deer management plan May 18, 2021 Montana, The Western News
... An analysis released in early 2020 indicated that 13 out of every 100 deer in the city suffered from CWD ... As for culling the population, the plan calls for assisting FWP in tracking the number of deer in Libby...

Deer populations strong in NE Montana's Region 6 May 18, 2021 Montana, Billings Gazette
... The 2021 spring surveys of trend areas showed region wide populations at 84% above long-term average and a 28% increase from the previous survey. The regionwide fawn-to-adult ratios were about average, with 55 fawns to 100 adults.
“The winter of 2020-2021 was generally mild and very favorable for wintering deer ..,

Little change in Bitterroot elk herd numbers this spring May 15, 2021 Montana, Ravalli Republic
... counted 7,631 elk this spring during the annual spring survey... The overall numbers were a little bit down from the last time Mowry was able to do a spring survey in 2019. Last year’s count from the air was canceled due to the pandemic...

... During the 2020 season, FWP tested 7974 samples from mule deer (n=3108), white-tailed deer (n=4088), elk (n=729), and moose (n=49). Of these, 271 animals tested positive for CWD, including 38 mule deer and 233 white-tailed deer. In 2020, we detected CWD in 6 new hunting districts, including: 309, 314, 320, 324, 326, and 622.
     Among CWD-positive hunt districts across the state, prevalence estimated from hunter-harvested animals sampled from 2017-2020 ranged from <1% -7% in mule deer and <1% - 25% in white-tailed deer..,

FWP working to implement new wolf laws May 10, 2021 Montana, Helena Independent Record
... wildlife managers are not expected to propose specific population targets for wolves as they implement a new law mandating a reduction in the state’s wolf numbers...  reports from hunters about a lack of deer and elk ...

Libby CWD, Wildlife management plan likely to pass by resolution April 27, 2021 Montana, The Western News
... Officials opted to tackle deer first because of the high prevalence of chronic wasting disease within city limits.  Though fewer animals tested for the disease came back positive this year, in 2020 officials estimated that 13 out of every 100 of the animals within city limits were infected..,

Gianforte signs wolf trapper 'reimbursement' bill April 23, 2021 Montana Standard
... a bill Friday allowing private payment for expenses to successful wolf trappers and hunters...  protect elk and deer populations, and as a general means of predator control ...

FWP Seeks Public Comment On Elk Management Guiding Principles, Chronic Wasting Disease April 21, 2021 Montana, The Roundup
... Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on Elk Management Guiding Principles ... view and comment on the Guiding Principles and CWD Management Plan ... Public comments will be accepted through Monday, May 3, 5 p.m ...

Cull sheds light on CWD, test sought for detection in live animals April 15, 2021 Montana, American Veterinary Medical Association
... The USDA and NASA’s Detect to Protect Challenge: A Live Animal Test will award cash prizes totaling $170,000 to develop proof of concept for a diagnostic test that will successfully detect CWD in samples from live animals provided by the USDA for the challenge...

... more than 82,000 residents, and 16,000 non residents apply for permits this year ... That is a 13% increase in residents and a 30% increase in non residents..,

... Block Management sections in FWP Region 6 recorded more than 79,000 hunter days this past fall, a 34% increase over 2019... For those who thought last fall’s hunting season felt a little crowded, early indications are that this fall will be even more so..,

... hunters—who want access to more elk—and landowners, who want fewer elk but who also don’t want to open their ranches to public hunting...

Wildlife bills would turn last best place into worst  March 3, 2021 Montana, The Missoulian
... Twelve other states banned or restricted snares. Montana allows snares year-round. Wolves are the exception, unless Rep. Fielder's HB 224, passes. Snares cost a couple of bucks, are inconspicuous, lightweight, and trappers' favorite. Alaska Fish and Game biologists estimate 1% of moose are caught and killed in wolf snares...

... The reason is that we’re trying to improve habitat for elk and deer ... The sagebrush has been shaded out over the years. The conifer encroachment is the result of fire suppression over a long period... trees are being ground into mulch this winter to open up the forest and allow for more forage to grow...

Late hunt finds more infected deer in SW Montana February 23, 2021 Montana, Billings Gazette
... resulted in 52 out of 305 deer testing positive for chronic wasting disease... FWP staff have observed CWD prevalence rates of 3% in Hunting District 320, and 13% in Hunting Districts 324 and 326 ...

... Data collected by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks during last year’s general hunting season indicated prevalence of CWD in whitetails in and around the Ruby Valley ranged from 8.3% in Hunting District 320 to as high as 50% in a specific portion of district 322...

... 40 percent of non-resident licenses would be awarded in an early draw, between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15 of the hunting year, for those who wanted to pay an extra $300 for the privilege...

...  in early November by the research firms New Bridge Strategy and FM3, found that 88% of respondents view wildlife as important to their quality of life in the state and that 83% believe that wildlife are important for the state’s economy...

Guest opinion: Bill is an aggressive attack on hunting February 7, 2021 Montana, Billings Gazette
... HJ5, sponsored by Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Lolo, states that taxing firearms is unconstitutional, and unenforceable. Apparently, Rep. Tschida and supporters of this measure don’t like Montana’s abundant wildlife, the habitat that supports it ... those funds have conserved key wildlife refuges. We’ve used it for habitat restoration. And it funds state wildlife agencies whose biologists employ scientific management...

Extended wolf trapping seasons draws debate January 29, 2021 Montana Standard
... Hunters in northwest Montana where wolf densities are highest have reported fewer deer, elk and moose in recent years ... Recommendations brought to the commission to increase wolf harvest went ignored, and HB 225 would provide legislative direction to move forward ...

Montana lawmakers considering several wolf management bills January 20, 2021 Montana, Helena Independent Record
... “Basically every drainage you go into you find wolves and the packs just keep expanding,” Brown said of the areas he hunts. “With elk and deer numbers, you’re not seeing them up in the hills. You might still see quite a few but they’re pushed down out of the hills and onto private land.” ...

Montana Wildlife Migration Strategy Helps Big Game and Economy January 11, 2021 The Pew Charitable Trusts
... The strategy focuses resources on mapping, conservation, and public education programs about migrating mule deer, pronghorn, elk, and other big game—species that are vital to hunting and wildlife tourism and help support Montana’s $2.5 billion outdoor economy...

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) detected on Blackfeet reservation December 23, 2020 Montana, Cut Bank Pioneer Press
... a tribal hunter harvested a whitetail deer from the Meriwether Road area on Nov. 11, which tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) ...

... Research indicates that green ash woodlands provide important escape cover, travel corridors, late summer and winter forage, and fawning grounds for white-tailed and mule deer. Although these woodlands comprised approximately one percent of available habitat in McCone County, five percent of all mule and white-tailed deer observations occurred in them...

... The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission last week unanimously approved a chronic wasting disease management hunt for white-tailed deer in several hunting districts in southwest Montana...

Montana officials approve extra deer hunt to slow CWD December 11, 2020 Bozeman Daily Chronicle
... High rates of chronic wasting disease in and around the Ruby Valley have prompted officials to ramp up the killing of white-tailed deer in nine hunting districts across southwest Montana...

... Photo analyses over the past 40 years revealed significant conifer tree expansion into sagebrush shrublands, grasslands, aspen stands and riparian areas ...  treatment is expected to increase year-round forage and browse available to elk, mule deer, moose, pronghorn and ruffed grouse...

Deadly CWD Reaches Outskirts Of Bozeman December 9, 2020 Montana, Mountain Journal
... of greatest immediate worry, officials say, is a cluster of CWD involving whitetails along the lower Ruby River near Sheridan. There, Montana’s wildlife agency collected 335 tissue samples from dead deer taken in Hunting District 322 and 78 of those, to date, have tested positive...

...  Hunters across northcentral and northeast Montana reported seeing a large number of mule deer bucks in velvet this general hunting season. The reason may lie in the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease outbreak that affected deer in several areas across the region this fall. Although EHD is often fatal in white-tailed deer, mule deer can still acquire the disease and, according to some studies, it may not always be fatal but instead affect testosterone production in bucks..,

CWD study results still coming in December 9, 2020 Montana, scledger.net
... From July 1 through Dec. 3, testing has detected 134 positive cases so far... Since 2017, FWP has sampled 17,960 deer, elk and moose combined statewide, with 316 positives..,

Helena Independent Record
... “Hunting regulations didn’t change much between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, and last year was a mild winter,” Thompson said. “Given that, we hoped to see a harvest that tracked with last season, and we did with a few localized exceptions that we’ll follow up on with other survey work.”..,

... The mule deer harvest was 22 percent below the 10-year average and 36 percent below the 20-year average ...Elk harvest was 44 percent below the 10-year average and 37 percent below the 20-year average. ... Whitetails ... was the highest for at least the last 25 years ...

... “Hunting regulations didn’t change much between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, and last year was a mild winter,”  ... check stations reporting above-average hunter success in the Bitterroot and Upper Clark Fork, and lower success in the Blackfoot...

CWD confirmed in Flathead County game farm November 20, 2020 Montana, Sidney Herald Leader
... the Montana Department of Livestock received notification that a single game farm animal in Flathead County was confirmed positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This is the second detection of CWD in domestic cervids in Montana this year...

Explaining magnetic alignment November 18, 2020 Montana, KPAX-TV
... these animals have a sort of compass in their brain. The behavior is called magnetic alignment. Research published in the National Academy of Sciences showed that factors like wind and the angle of the sun had little significance on how the animals stood. Like the needle of a compass, their heads rotated to the north...

... adding an additional $1,000 to an existing reward offered by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for information leading to a conviction of whoever shot the moose, whose body was found a short distance off Sure Enough Road in hunting district 496. .. killed either on Oct. 31 or Nov. 1...

Elk management plan meetings scheduled November 11, 2020 Montana, Helena Independent Record
... The Elk Management Plan Initial Guidance Citizens Group will meet via Zoom on Nov. 19, Dec. 2–3, and Dec. 16–17... meetings are open to the public ... Information here ...

Growing number of Montana deer test positive for CWD October 22, 2020 Montana, Great Falls Tribune
... The symptoms of the disease include subtle behavioral changes such as lethargy and the loss of a fear of humans... animals lose weight and became emaciated... It is believed that the most common vector for the spread of CWD is animal to animal contact; nose-to-nose touching, males fighting during the rut, transmission during breeding, and animal contact with infected blood, feces and urine...

Deer, elk gun opener is finally here! October 21, 2020 Montana, Mineral Independent
... The most severe winter in recent history was in 1996-97. Our deer and elk herds took a big hit that winter. White-tailed deer and elk recovered but in many places in western Montana, mule deer still haven’t bounced back to the same population levels they were at before then..,

Chronic Wasting Disease is an always-fatal neurological disease found in members of the deer family. It has been in North America for several decades but was first detected in Montana in November 2017. Montana wildlife biologists have a goal of keeping the disease below 5 percent prevalence, and this year are implementing new carcass disposal rules to work to prevent further human-caused spread. Join Quentin Kujala, Chief of Staff, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Emily Almberg, FWP Wildlife Biologist along with Nick Gevock, Conservation Director for Montana Wildlife Federation to talk about how hunters can do our part in this fight. - October 20, 2020 Montana


18 deer test positive for chronic wasting disease October 20, 2020 Montana, Billings Gazette
... The positive deer all come from areas where CWD was previously known to exist ... All but two of the deer were killed by hunters during the archery season...

FWP selects committee for elk management plan re-write October 1, 2020 Montana, Helena Independent Record
... An elk management plan has existed since 1992 and was last updated in 2005. The nearly 400-page document details the state’s strategy for managing elk as a species given diverse land ownership, habitats and the role of hunting...

2020 SE MT big game hunting forecast September 8, 2020 Mongana, EIN News
... Southeast Montana experienced another summer with good rainfall, but conditions are rapidly drying out ... “Abundant precipitation last year made for good forage conditions and deer going into winter in good body condition,” ... “Mule deer are ... about 15 percent above last year and 33 percent above long-term average.” ... Whitetails counts were overall 11 percent above last year ..,

Montana 2020 Big Game Forecast September 2, 2020, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
.. White-tailed deer numbers have been on an upward trend in general, but previous hard winters have dampened fawn survival. The mild winter in 2020 was a welcome relief and fawn production looks good this summer. Good moisture and excellent forage production should benefit all deer.  Opportunities to hunt mule deer are somewhat limited in western Montana...

Mild winter leaves deer and elk in good shape August 30, 2020 Montana, Independent Record
... pretty darn stable with what we were seeing last year ... Butte Area:  a mild winter ... a few more elk and deer out on the landscape...Helena Area:  Deer populations were of concern following a couple of hard winters before the mild winter of 2019-2020... I wouldn’t expect the deer to rebound so much ... Townsend Area:  a pretty mild winter ..,

What you need to know about CWD [Chronic Wasting Disease] in Montana August 30, 2020 Montana, Independent Record
... CWD could result in large-scale population declines for infected herds.
Mule deer are believed to be the most susceptible species in Montana, but moose, elk and white-tailed deer can all be infected... Animals infected with CWD may appear completely healthy...

... gearing up to test 15,000 hunter-killed deer, elk or moose for chronic wasting disease ... Last year ... about 7,000 samples ... Montana has detected one case of CWD in a game farm in Eastern Montana ...

... The City is required to conduct a survey of the urban deer herd to determine how many animals should be removed... The program has drawn controversy since it's inception. Some residents don't think the program should exist, while others see it as a necessary way to manage the population...

... ground counts for mule deer were collected by area biologists to estimate over-winter survival... The post-season survey showed 61 fawns per 100 adults, which is above the average of 55 fawns per 100 adults... Winter mortality was likely minimal across the region ..,

Chronic wasting disease detected in Gallatin County deer May 19, 2020 Montana, Billings Gazette
... The deer was euthanized earlier this month in the Springhill area of north Bozeman after displaying several classic symptoms of the disease.  This case is the first detection of CWD in Gallatin County ...

Montana begins rewrite of elk management plan May 4, 2020 Helena Independent Record
... Montana last updated its elk management plan in 2005 ...  ... Individuals interested in serving on the committee must be willing to commit to two multi-day meetings during the summer of 2020... Populations in some parts of Montana grew well above objectives in recent years  ...

... Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking 10 to 12 individuals to serve as a statewide citizens group to collaboratively provide guidance for the new Elk Management Plan in Montana... Applications must be received no later than May 25 ...

... Following two years of hard winters, including last year’s record cold snap in February and March, biologists documented greater mortality for deer, elk and antelope... If temperatures continue to warm up through April, biologists expect most animals to survive...

FWP crews attach GPS collars to learn more about Montana wildlife March 8, 2020
Billings Gazette
... By following the 40 Carbon County mule deer that were collared, Stewart is hoping to find out where those animals go in the summer.  In 2017, Carbon County was the first place chronic wasting disease was detected in Montana whitetail and mule deer. Since then, sampling for the disease has expanded. Last hunting season 142 positive animals were identified ...

The Quiet Extinction February 19, 2020 Montana, Montana Kaimin
... Caribou herds once abundantly thrived from the western coast of Alaska to the eastern fronts of Canada, but that is no longer the case... Caribou migrate longer distances than any other mammal on Earth ... The final herd of the Lower 48, the South Selkirk herd, officially became extinct ... [at the end of 2019] ...

Missoula to count urban deer February 18, 2020 Montana, KPAX
... There is no program being launched. There's not a 'turkey shoot' that's happening up against some hillside,” von Lossberg said. We're trying to get a handle on population and a review of what is out there from a management strategy standpoint."...These are the first order responsible things to do ...

Smuggled elk poses a mystery for Montana wildlife officials February 15, 2020 Times Union
...A Montana game warden learns of an unusual elk shot along the Rocky Mountain Front... Genetic testing reveals that the young bull is of an exotic sub-species, and that it came from a herd more than 600 miles from where it was shot... it had been castrated ... tested negative for hoof disease ...

... Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks submitted 6,977 samples for chronic wasting disease testing during the 2019 season ... 142 tested positive for the fatal disease, including 86 white-tailed deer, 53 mule deer, two moose and one elk. These were Montana’s first detections in moose and wild elk..,

Chronic Wasting Disease found in Eastern Montana game farm elk February 6, 2020 Montana, Sidney Herald Leader
...The Montana Department of Livestock On Jan. 31, 2020, reported that a single game farm elk in eastern Montana has been confirmed positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The disease has not been identified in domestic cervids in Montana since 1999...,
     Montana game farm quarantined after positive elk CWD test February 3, 2020 Kansas City Star
... A Montana game farm is under quarantine after an elk tested positive for chronic wasting disease ..,
 
... CWD turned up in northwestern deer around Libby and Troy. Tests identified that almost 50 deer were infected.  FWP biologists theorized the sudden geographical jump was the result of hunters unknowingly bringing diseased carcasses back from the eastern part of the state and dumping the remains after they finished butchering...

Second moose tests positive for CWD January 18, 2020 Montana, Daily Inter Lake
... A second moose has tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Northwest Montana.  A hunter harvested the bull moose during the last week of the general hunting season near Fawn Creek just southeast of Libby ...

... Thirteen percent of the white-tailed deer in the town of Libby could be infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD), the highest prevalence rate in the state... FWP is already trapping deer within city limits to reduce population numbers ... Now the agency hopes to get permission from the state wildlife commission to sell an unlimited number of white-tailed deer tags...

White-tailed deer in southwest Montana tests positive for CWD January 10,
Explore Big Sky
... A white-tailed deer harvested during the general hunting season by a hunter in the Ruby Valley in southwest Montana has tested positive for chronic wasting disease. The Ruby Valley deer was harvested on private land about a mile west of Sheridan ...

Helena suspends deer culling due to budget cuts January 7, 2020 Montana, Independent Record
... The city began culling deer in 2008 by trapping them in pens ... This is the first fall and winter the city has not culled since then... the city plans to survey the deer population this fall, which is required by FWP in order to cull ...

...  less than half a mile to the west of the existing Libby CWD Management Zone... CWD was first detected in white-tailed deer in the Libby area earlier this year, leading to the creation of the Libby CWD Management Zone. To date, there have been 30 positive detections in deer...

Wildlife crossing system on Highway 200 near Thompson Falls December 26, 2019 Montana, The Missoulian
...  MDT installed 8-foot tall wildlife fencing along a 2.7 mile section ... To prevent animals from crossing into the fenced-in highway corridor, MDT installed electric wildlife deterrent mats this fall...

Comments sought on proposed elk hunting rules December 25, 2019 Montana, Missoulian
... Statewide, Montana’s elk population is roughly 134,000, about 20,000 over objectives, which is why the Fish and Wildlife Commission agreed in 2015 to extend the regular hunting seasons in some districts... The comment deadline is Jan. 22.., [see the proposals for the 2020-21 available for comment]

Montana data:  A  2020 deer population of 524,467 [see table below]  based on a state estimate of 328,313 mule deer and 196,154 white-tail deer.   In 2020 a stable to modestly increasing population as a result of the mild 2019-20 winter.  Another mild winter in 2020-21 resulted numbers above long term average, but drought and wildfire in 2021.  Hunter numbers were up significantly in 2020 and 2021. The 2020 forecast.
    A population of  513,942 in 2019 with 321,638 mule deer and 192,303 white-tails Good rainfall in spring and summer of 2018 and 2019 supported deer populations, but harsh winters in 2017-18 and in 2018-19 reduced populations. 2019 surveys.  A population of 567,194 in 2018, up from 623,295 in 2017 when populations trended higher despite a harsh winter, except in the northwest where deer faced the most severe weather.  The harsh 2016-17 winter was offset by good previous summer and fall providing ample forage for deer going into winter so deer populations were nearly stable in the northwest.  In 2016 white-tailed deer were generally increasing from a low in 2010 while mule deer numbers remained low with some recovery in the east.  See the 2016 big game outlook for a detailed summary of 2016 conditions. Heavy snow in 2016 resulted in fawn mortality, but white-tail populations remained stable. 

Montana Deer Population

 
  Year
Mule Deer
Data ....
to 2009
White-tail
Data 
Total 
 2005318,187  
 2006347,892  
 2007346,683  
 2008336,689  
 2009302,876  
 2010247,225  
 2011249,241 203,912 453,153
 2012211,630 169,932 381,562
 2013234,268 192,974 427,242
 2014263,569 183,729 447,295
 2015297,288 210,665 507,953
 2016366,033 217,976 584,009
 2017388,175 235,126 623,295
 2018349,635
 217,559 567,194
 2019321,638 192,303 513,941
2020 md
328,313 196,154 524,467


     In 2015 an estimated 297,288 mule deer and about 210,665 whitetails for a total of 507,953. Favorable weather in 2014-15 led to a fair improvement in deer populations, stable in some areas. The 2015 spring survey showed white-tailed numbers about unchanged with mule deer numbers at or above averages from Glosgow and east but at or lower in the west, the Malta and Havre area.  Mule deer populations were up about 20 percent, fawn recruitment at 60 per 100 does was excellent, buck to doe ratio at 37 to 100 in 2015.  About 100,000 hunters in 2015.  65 percent of the state’s the deer and 40 percent of the elk are on private property.  Deer and elk populations were doing better on private land than on public land where they are over hunted.
       In 2014 an estimated population of 447,295 with 263,569 mule deer and 183,729 white-tails.   For 2014 the mule deer harvest was 42 percent below the 10-year average, 7 percent below for white-tails, and 12 percent above for elk.  In the southeast there was above-average precipitation in 2014, mule deer herds recovered somewhat to about 8 percent below the trend compared to 57 percent below the trend after the severe winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11.  The 2011 and 2012 EHD outbreaks reduced white-tail populations but they are recovering with an average of 61 yearlings per 100 adults in 2014 based on good forage and precipitation. 
     In 2013 an estimated 427,242 deer.  In the northwest white-tailed deer were still recovering from the population low of 2009 and mule deer numbers still low.  In the west white-tails are stable to increasing while mule deer are below average.  In the southwest white-tails were stable and mule deer are increasing somewhat from the lows of 2010-11.     A significant decline in the 2013 deer hunt, FWP implemented restrictions to restore the herd including reduced hunting pressure, hunting of only mature male mule deer and only white-tailed bucks in three eastern regions.  Mule deer populations fell by about 55% from the 2006-2008 recent peak to 2012 as a result of severe winters from 2009 to 2011.
     A total of 281,000 mule deer estimated [PDF] for 2010, updated recently to 247,225 as reported in the table.  Deer in the northeast, Region 6, took a serious hit in the severe winter of 2010-11 with EHD further reducing whitetail populations. EHD is new to Montana and primarily affects whitetails.
Mule deer populations have been in a long decline, since the 1970's.  The winter of 1996 - 97 took a heavy toll, the most severe recent winter.  Doe licenses were substantially reduced in an effort to boost the population.  The mule deer population had not recovered by 2020.  Revenues fell, tags were increased again, but when the population fell again, tags were cut.  One issue has been suppression of fire beginning in the 70's that improved deer habitat., but reasons for the decline are not well understood and under study.   Antelope populations have followed a similar pattern. The Effects of Special Mule Deer Buck Regulations on Mule Deer Populations and Harvest [PDF, 2011]
      Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in Montana's wild deer for the first time in 2017,  detected in captive elk at a game farm near Philipsburg in 1999.   In 2018, 26 positives in wild deer from 1,922 tested.  During the 2019 hunting season, there were 142 animals testing positive out of about 6,977 tested, including the first positives in moose and wild elk.  In early 2020, CWD was detected in an elk farm, the first reported among domestic cervids since 1999.  Montana voted to ban game farms in 2000.  A total of 316 cases by December, 2020 with 271 animals testing positive in 2020 [full report].  For the town of Libby in 2020, an estimated 13% of the deer are infected.  Residents reported a sickly doe in 2017, the first to test positive in the town.  By 2021, there were 456 positive cases of CWD.
      History  The Lewis and Clark expedition reported large numbers of deer and elk while passing through eastern Montana.  
     Moose  Lewis and Clark reported seeing only two moose when they passed through in 1805-06.  Populations, which have been hunted since 1872, have recently been on the decline.   FWP is trying to determine why.  Hunting, predation, parasites, and climate change are suspected factors.  About 20,000 hunters applied for 350 moose tags in 2018, among those about a 75 hunter success rate.
     Elk,  estimated at 134,000 in 2019, about 20,000 over objective  About 140,000 in 2014.  Above target populations in many districts in 2016.
     Wolves, an estimated 600 to 900 in 2019, a verified 554 in 2014, down 12 percent from 2013, although the total is thought to be higher, 750 to 800 in 2015.  About 650 wolves in 2012, 550 wolves in 2011  Thought to be virtually extinct up to 1973.

Report poaching:  1.800.TIP.MONT  Reward of up to $1,000.  Callers can remain anonymous.  1-800-847-6668. 

Other useful links:
- Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
-- Fire.org ... issues concerning wildland fire planning, behavior, fuel, weather, and effects.