Elk and Deer Helicopter Surveys in Progress

Biologists from the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) will be conducting helicopter deer surveys and elk captures in areas surrounding the White Mountains to the Arizona-New Mexico border beginning mid-January into February.

During this time residents in surrounding areas may notice several daily flights of a low-flying helicopter over their communities. AZGFD attempts to minimize disruption caused by these flights to the best of our ability, but the timing is necessary – especially for deer who are rutting. The rutting season frequently brings deer out into the open where they can more easily be counted for population estimates.

Elk captures are part of an ongoing study to learn more about cow and calf elk mortality and elk habitat selection in the Mexican wolf recovery areas in Arizona and New Mexico. Elk will be captured using net-guns from a helicopter or darted from the ground in Game Management Units 1, 3B, 3C and 27 with approximately 120 cow elk being fitted with GPS collars. Similar efforts are being conducted in New Mexico. The primary investigator on this elk research project is New Mexico State University with AZGFD as a partnering agency.

Helicopter surveys are conducted routinely across the state of Arizona. Population survey data helps biologists write hunt recommendations and determine the number of elk and deer tags available in units for the next two years. Surveys like these are essential to AZGFD’s science-based decision making for wildlife in our state.