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F&G uses helicopters to assess big-game sheds | Environment
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F&G uses helicopters to assess big-game sheds | Environment

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced Wednesday, that wildlife biologists from the department will conduct regional flights in the coming weeks to document mule and elk population.

Residents in the area should not be alarmed if they see a helicopter hovering low above the trees.

Department research focuses specifically on herd composition and abundance information to aid game managers in future season-setting.

Abundance surveys simply count the number and type of animals in an area. Composition surveys, on the other hand, look at offspring-mother ratios and male-female ratios.

As part of routine helicopter counts by Fish and Games, abundance surveys for elk in the Pioneer Mountains will be conducted this winter. These counts are done every four to five years.

A typical abundance survey can take several weeks. They are usually flown between mid January and early March to ensure that deer and elk concentrate on low-elevation winter ranges. Fish and Game stated.

The department stated that not all deer and elk can have their counts during an aerial survey because of thick vegetation and gaps in the snow cover that help to camouflage them.

Fish and Game therefore developed a sightability system that corrects the count to include animals that were not observed during survey… by 10-20% depending on the conditions (snowcover and foliage) and animal behavior (group sizes and activities) at the time, Fish and Game stated.

Biologists will also examine the composition of mule-deer herds in Picabo Hills, Jasper Flats, and Bennett areas north of Picabo. They will also be looking at the South Hills, Sublett, Black Pine, and Jim Sage mountains in southern Idaho. The Sublett and Black Pine mountains will also be populated with mule deer.

The primary purpose of a herd composition survey, or calf-cow in the case elks, is to obtain reliable fawn/doe ratios. These measures measure offspring productivity over the first six months of a person’s life and help to model and estimate. [big-game]Fish and Game said that the future population will be a good thing for fish and game. In the same process, buck-doe and bull-cow ratios are also collected (elk: bull-cow ratios).

However, because bucks are smaller and more concentrated in small groups than fawns and do not occupy the same areas as does the landscape, buck ratios are inherently conservative. They often underestimate buck numbers.

The Magic Valley Office also will be net-gunning muledeer and elk by helicopters in December and January. It will also capture radio-collared animals throughout Game Management Units 52-57 and 44-49.

This information is used to estimate winter survival and to document seasonal movements, Fish and Game stated.

The Wood River Valleys Game Units 48-49 are located to either side the state Highway 75.

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