Beginning in early December, 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,” said Daryl Meints, Fish and Game deer and elk program coordinator. “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.