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Published March 16, 2012, 11:08 AM

Fewer moose, elk, sheep licenses in ND this year

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Fewer moose, elk and bighorn sheep hunting licenses are being made available in North Dakota this year.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Fewer moose, elk and bighorn sheep hunting licenses are being made available in North Dakota this year.

Elk licenses are down by 200 over the year, to 301, because of the National Park Service's successful effort to reduce the bloated elk population in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, according to the state Game and Fish Department.

"A total of 868 elk ... were taken out of the park by the reduction effort, and an additional 299 elk were taken by licensed hunters in (nearby areas) during the last two hunting seasons," said Jeb Williams, assistant wildlife chief for Game and Fish. "Based on a recent elk survey, the estimated number of elk in the park is 200."

The elk reduction effort began in 2010, when officials estimated the park herd at nearly 1,000 animals when a couple of hundred was considered ideal. Park Service-led teams of volunteer sharpshooters have thinned the herd the past two falls. The meat is donated to a hunger program and American Indian tribes.

A total of 143 moose hunting licenses will be available in North Dakota this year, a drop of 20 from 2011. The moose population in northeast North Dakota is on a downward trend, and moose have moved out of some of the Missouri River bottoms area because of flooded habitat, according to Game and Fish.

There will be four bighorn sheep licenses issued this year rather than six. All but one of the licenses are issued through a lottery drawing

North Dakota has auctioned one bighorn license each year since 1986 to raise money for sheep management. The Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation will auction this year's license during its annual fundraiser and banquet on Saturday in Bloomington, Minn. Last year's license sold for $41,000. The program has raised $890,000 since it began.

Moose, elk and sheep are once-in-a-lifetime licenses in North Dakota.

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