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Lewis and Clark in North Dakota:
Wildlife Then & Now


Fallow, Red or Common Deer (White-tailed Deer) Past White-tailed Deer Distribution Map for North Dakota Present White-tailed Deer Distribution Map for North Dakota
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Fallow, Red or Common Deer (White-tailed Deer)

The white-tailed deer was observed in good numbers by Lewis and Clark along the Missouri River once they got away from the established Indian villages. Prior to European settlement white-tailed deer were probably found throughout the state along the major river systems and around isolated wooded buttes, but scarce over much of the prairie. During the 1820s a market for deer hides developed along the Missouri River. In 1833 the American Fur Company at Fort Union, near present day Williston, was exporting 20,000 to 30,000 deer hides each year (Note: these numbers probably include mule deer and white-tailed deer harvested in Montana.) By 1867 Charles Larpenteur, a fur trader at Fort Buford (one mile east of the abandoned Fort Union), reported trading only 1,800 deer hides. This decline continued as subsistence hunting by European settlers spread across the state. Again, as with other big game species, white-tailed deer were nearly gone from the state by 1900. Regulated hunting, introduction of agricultural row crops, and the proliferation of shelter belts and tree rows have resulted in a remarkable rebound of this highly adaptable species. Most biologists would agree that white-tailed deer numbers now exceed presettlement populations. Whitetails are found throughout the state.

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