The Casper Region of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is conducting sightability surveys for deer and elk between Jan. 13 and 20 west of Casper. Surveys will cover Deer Hunt Areas 88 and 89, and Elk Hunt Area 23 near the Rattlesnake Hills. People outdoors in the vicinity during this time may expect to see the helicopter flying at low elevation and need not report it. Agricultural areas near the Kendrick Irrigation District and along the North Platte River will be surveyed from the ground to avoid disrupting farm livestock and activities in those areas.
“For our normal annual surveys, the helicopter is used for half a day, and we fly higher to get a broad overview. This year we are conducting a more comprehensive sightability survey,” says Heather O’Brien, Casper wildlife biologist.
During sightability surveys, Game and Fish managers will attempt to survey the entire herd thoroughly and completely, which requires the helicopter to fly low and slow. Survey results will provide Game and Fish with more accurate population estimates, as well as reliable age and gender ratios for the elk herd. This information will be used to improve population models and make better management decisions for both the deer and elk herd.
“Since this is such an intensive survey, we will also take the opportunity to record other notable wildlife, such as wintering flocks of sage grouse and large herds of pronghorn,” adds O’Brien. “Conducting aerial surveys at this time of the year also gives us valuable information about how wildlife are using different habitats as it relates to winter conditions.”
The helicopter will be flying out of the Casper Game and Fish office for nearly ten days, weather permitting.