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Wildlife Population Surveys

The Government of Saskatchewan aims to sustainably manage game species and their habitats including white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, pronghorn, caribou, bison, upland game birds, waterfowl, bear, wolf, cougar and furbearers. To help wildlife managers better understand the many aspects of wildlife populations, such as population size, herd structure, productivity (e.g., young per female), impact of disease, harvest and hunting effort and human-wildlife issues that impact wildlife populations, several survey types are employed.

  • Ground-Based Trend Surveys
    • Spotlight Deer Surveys
    • Pronghorn Herd Structure Survey
  • Aerial Population Density Surveys
  • Citizen Science Surveys
    • Hunter Harvest Survey
    • Co-operative Wildlife Management Survey
    • Annual Status of Furbearers Survey

Ground-Based Trend Surveys

Spotlight Deer Surveys

Each October, the Ministry of Environment conducts ground-based spotlight deer surveys on established routes in select wildlife management zones (WMZs) across the province. Observers record the number, age and sex of game species that they detect. Routes are approximately 160 kilometres and run through a variety of habitats. Data in each WMZ is considered comparable to other years’ data for the same WMZ, thus yielding a population trend for game species of that region.

Pronghorn Herd Structure Survey

The pronghorn herd structure survey monitors the changes in pronghorn populations over time. Seventy 80-kilometre routes are established across the pronghorn range in Saskatchewan and staff complete each one annually between July 1 and July 21. Two surveyors record the number, age and sex of all pronghorn observed within 800 metres either side of the road. 

Aerial Population Density Surveys

The Ministry of Environment conducts aerial surveys using a stratified random block design to determine density and generate population estimates for select regions across the province. These surveys, typically conducted in winter when snow cover and lack of foliage make observations easier, are designed to estimate age (i.e. adult vs. young) and sex composition of ungulate populations. Structures are usually presented as adult males or young per adult female. 

Citizen Science Surveys

Hunter Harvest Survey  

Hunter harvest surveys are an important component of managing game in Saskatchewan and provide valuable information for quota and season setting for the upcoming year. You will find detailed information about this survey and an annual summary of results

Saskatchewan Co-operative Wildlife Management Survey logo  Saskatchewan Co-operative Wildlife Management Survey

The Saskatchewan Co-operative Wildlife Management Survey, formerly the Co-operative Deer Management Survey, is a long-standing, volunteer-based survey that provides the ministry with valuable productivity and herd structure information. In 2017, this survey was expanded to formally include moose, elk and select upland bird observations. Participants also have the opportunity to conveniently record observations using the new mobile SK CWMS application, that is compatible with both Apple and Android smart phones.

Once you download the SK CWMS App on GooglePlay or the Apple store, call 1-800-567-4224 toll-free, for your participant number and activation code.

Although the SK CWMS application will allow participants to record observations at any time of year, there are key periods where it is particularly important to record your observations for each species:

White-tailed deer and mule deer: September 1 to November 30
Moose: September 1 to December 31
Elk: September 1 to February 28
Sharp-tailed Grouse: March 1 to July 15
Wild Turkey: December 1 to March 1

The traditional paper booklet will remain available for those who prefer the former recording method. To request a booklet, to sign up for the app, or for more information on how to download the mobile application, call 1-800-567-4224 toll-free. The public can also sign up by emailing

Annual Status of Furbearers Survey

The Annual Status of Furbearers Survey asks trappers to assess the abundance of local furbearers. Each species is assigned a number between 0 and 4, with 0 corresponding to never being found in the area, 1 to sometimes being found but not present in the year of interest, 2 to being scarce, 3 to being common and 4 to being abundant.  The average of all trappers reporting on the species is summarized in order to determine if the species is abundant (>3.3), common (2.8 – 3.2), fairly common (2.3 – 2.7), uncommon (2.0 – 2.3), scarce (<2.0) or never found (0).  Similarly, trappers are asked to identify if the abundance of each species is lower, similar or higher than the previous year.  In 2017, this survey was transitioned into the HAL system and will be available to all trappers purchasing a Northern Fur Conservation Area or Southern Fur Conservation Area trapping licence.

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