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DOW to swoop in, study herds

Aspen Times staff report

If you see a low-flying helicopters in the vicinity of deer or elk herds in the next few days, it’s probably the good guys.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife will be using a helicopter to conduct a count of deer and elk in the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan valleys. DOW biologists received so many calls as a result of last year’s count, they decided to warn the public this year, said Kevin Wright, district wildlife manager for Aspen.

Wright said local DOW officials will survey game animals in this area sometime between today and Wednesday, depending on when a helicopter becomes available. Bad weather could postpone the survey.

The operation is officially known as as “sex ratio classification count.” Results of the annual survey are used in management of Colorado’s big game herds.

“It’s really vital information,” Wright said. “Basically, it gives you an idea of what’s going on with that population.”

Wildlife officials count elk bulls in three different age classes and count the total numbers of cows and calves. Buck deer are also counted in three different age categories, with does and fawns counted separately.

One of the most important uses of the data is in determining the number of licenses issued for animals in each of those categories for the next year’s hunting season. The DOW uses a computer program that crunches several variables and provides information on how herds should be managed.

“You put the information in and it tells you, based on x percentage of success, this is how many cow tags you have to issue,” Wright said.

The helicopter flights will cover deer and elk winter range in the Roaring Fork Valley from Glenwood Springs to Aspen and up the Fryingpan to a point just past Ruedi Reservoir. The Missouri Heights and Spring Valley areas will also be covered.

The helicopter will sometimes be seen at very low levels, Wright said. To get accurate counts, it may be necessary to split large herds by approaching very closely with the helicopter.


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