WDFW to use drone in Grant County waterfowl surveys


Ella Rowan, Assistant District Wildlife Biologist, (509) 754-4624
Staci Lehman, (509) 892-7853

SPOKANE – Biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) plan to fly a drone over Game Reserve wetland habitat in Grant County this November and/or December.

These flights will test the capability and effectiveness of drones in detecting and recording imagery of waterfowl. If successful, they will be used to estimate abundance and species presence in dense vegetation. In the past, these surveys were carried out from fixed-wing planes, which is expensive and can be dangerous. Using a drone will reduce safety risks and conserve limited resources of time and funding.

Flights will occur before the end of December in the Frenchman, North Potholes, and/or Winchester Game Reserves; all areas where hunting is prohibited. Flights will most likely take place between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. and will depend on weather conditions, suitable flight conditions, and schedules. Flights will not take place in, or near, areas where hunting legally takes place and flying over private lands will be avoided when possible.

Waterfowl are valuable members of ecosystems, provide viewing and hunting recreation, and provide economic benefits statewide. The use of a drone is expected to provide high resolution photos and videos of them. Every effort will be made not to disturb birds with these flights. Harassment of wildlife with a drone is a violation of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC), as is using drones to scout for wildlife for hunting purposes. Flight plans and procedures will be carried out in accordance with WDFW Policy and Procedures, and within FAA requirements for drone operation.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other recreation opportunities.

Persons with disabilities who need to receive this information in an alternative format or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact Dolores Noyes by phone (360-902-2349), TTY (360-902-2207), or email (dolores.noyes@dfw.wa.gov). For more information, see https://wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation.