Wildlife officials say a harsh winter combined with spring flooding and a summer disease outbreak have reduced antelope and deer numbers, leading to fewer hunters visiting northeast Montana.

Scott Hemmer of Fish, Wildlife and Parks says that hunter numbers are down 31 percent from this time last year.

The agency cut antelope hunting licenses after heavy snows over the winter prevented antelope from reaching forage and many starved to death. Game check stations this fall show harvest down 71 percent from last year.

The agency says deer numbers also fell because of the tough winter and epizootic hemorrhagic disease over the summer.

White-tailed deer harvest is down 38 percent from the long-term average while mule deer harvest is down 46 percent.

Associated Press