Wildlife biologists with Idaho Fish and Game are taking to the sky across the state to get a closer look at deer and elk numbers, including several low-level helicopter flights planned this week to survey mule deer in the Salmon and Challis areas.
"We want to give folks a heads up regarding these flights,” said Dennis Newman, Fish and Game wildlife biologist based in Salmon. “A low-flying helicopter may be seen flying in their area in the weeks ahead, as well as later this winter."
Fish and Game will count mule deer in game management units 21, 21A, 27, 28, 29, 30, 30A, 36A, 36B, and 37 beginning December 5. Depending on weather conditions, biologists plan to begin elk surveys in units 30 and 30A in early January.
Disturbance to animals is kept to the minimum needed to acquire accurate information, generally less than a few minutes per group.
Besides finding big game animals congregated at lower elevations, winter also brings two requirements to conduct accurate surveys - clear weather for good visibility and snow cover that aids locating and identifying species. A helicopter flying low and slow over select areas is the most efficient tool for gathering big game herd information.
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. In early January, biologists will also capture and radio-collar hundreds of deer and elk across the state. Crews will then monitor the radio-collared animals to estimate herd survival throughout winter and early spring.
Both the flight survey information and data collected from radio-collars will be used to determine the overall health of Idaho’s mule deer and elk herds. With this information, biologists can be more precise in developing future hunting seasons.
For more information, contact the Fish and Game office in Salmon at 208-756-2271.