Idaho Fish and Game biologists will soon have more detailed information on the actual effect a gnat-borne epidemic had this summer on deer herds in the Clearwater.
Biologists will conduct aerial surveys of deer populations in the Clearwater Region in big game management units 13, 14, 18 and portions of 11A beginning in early December.
The department plans to expand the surveys to help monitor the effects of the outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) that appeared in early August. It impacted deer populations mainly in the lower elevations along the Clearwater River drainage from Harpster downstream to Kamiah. Patchy outbreaks occurred in the areas of Kendrick, Peck, Orofino and Grangeville, and along the Salmon River near Whitebird and Riggins.
The survey results will provide information from which management decisions will be based for determining future hunting seasons. The flights are scheduled to cover the same units at the same time every year to make the information gathered comparable from year to year. The goal is to compare population trends and age and sex ratios. A helicopter flying low and slow over some of the most remote areas of the state is the most efficient tool for gathering big game herd information.
Aerial surveys are conducted mostly during winter months when the animals are congregated on lower elevation winter ranges. The winter months also bring two requirements needed to conduct accurate surveys; clear weather for good visibility and snow covering that aid in locating and identification of species.