SPOKANE -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will be using a helicopter crew to capture elk and mule deer in eastern Washington to help biologists learn more about the animals.
The animals will be captured by nets shot from a gun fired from the helicopter, then equipped with radio telemetry collars by ground crews of WDFW staff and Inland Northwest Wildlife Council volunteers. The collars allow regular monitoring of the animals' movements and habitat use.
The elk will be captured in south Spokane County where a month-long attempt to bait them into a trap has failed. Crews hope to radio-equip up to 30 elk to learn more about their numbers, travel corridors across the county, and other information that will help manage elk-human conflicts better.
The captures will take place the next two weeks.
WDFW urban wildlife biologist Howard Ferguson heads up the elk study, which is designed to address both human and elk population growth issues. Ferguson says suburban sprawl in an area that used to be rural is creating problems, from elk damage to landscape plantings to motor vehicle collisions with elk.
Up to 130 mule deer will be captured and equipped in parts of Lincoln, Whitman, Adams, Ferry, Okanogan, Chelan, and Stevens counties. The effort is part of the multi-agency, five-year study that began last year with the marking of 34 deer in northeast and northcentral Washington. WDFW is the lead agency.
WDFW ungulate research biologist Woody Myers who is heading up the deer study, said the study will help determine habitat use, deer herd boundaries and home range sizes, population densities, and mortality rates. Blood samples, measurements, and other tests taken when the deer are captured will also help determine health and productivity.
The mule deer study will be done in cooperation with the Colville Confederated Tribes, Spokane Tribe, Kalispel Tribe, U.S. Forest Service, Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Land Management, Washington Department of Natural Resources, University of Washington, Washington State University, Central Washington University, University of Idaho, and Chelan Public Utility District.