Washington & Idaho Game Officials to Conduct Aerial Surveys
CLARKSTON, WA - Washington and Idaho wildlife officials will be conducting aerial surveys over the next several days. Beginning Saturday, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists will conduct deer survey and capture work with a helicopter in southeast Washington’s Columbia, Garfield, and Walla Walla counties.
Depending on weather, the aerial work could continue for a few weeks.
The work is designed to learn more about mule deer populations, including percentages of bucks, does, and fawns, to inform future management and hunting seasons. Up to 50 mule deer does will be captured to equip them with GPS/satellite collars that allow biologists to monitor migration patterns and doe survival.
Location data from the collared animals will be used to refine annual surveys for improved management.
The capture work will occur on both public land and private land for which permission has been secured. The deer will be captured with nets fired from a helicopter, handled on-site for collaring, and released at the place of capture.
Meanwhile, Idaho Department of Fish and Game staff will be flying to get a closer look at deer and elk numbers, including several low-level helicopter surveys planned throughout the state.
"We want to give folks a heads up regarding these flights,” deer and elk program coordinator Daryl Meints says. “They may see a low-flying helicopter flying in their area in the weeks ahead and later this winter."
Disturbance to animals is kept to the minimum needed to acquire accurate information, generally less than a few minutes per group of deer and elk.
The helicopter surveys are scheduled during the winter months to cover areas at the same time of the year so that information gathered is comparable from year to year. The goal is to compare population trends, and age and sex ratios. This information allows biologists to be more precise in setting seasons and permit levels which results in maximum opportunity for hunters.
In early January, Fish and Game will also capture and radio-collar hundreds of mule deer and elk across the state. Crews will then monitor the radio-collared animals to estimate herd survival throughout winter and early spring.
This information, together with the flight survey data, will be used to determine the status of Idaho’s mule deer and elk herds, which plays an important role in determining future big game hunting seasons.
The work is not without risks, as flights involve working at low altitudes and in less than perfect weather conditions. Two crashes have claimed the lives of three Idaho Fish and Game biologists and two hired pilots since 2000.
UPDATE from WDFW: "...our deer capture work described below in last week’s advisory has been postponed until late January due to aircraft contractor’s unavailability. The aerial survey work will be conducted as scheduled."
(Photo by Roger Phillips/Idaho Department of Fish and Game).