Wildlife officials set to launch annual study of deer, elk in Aspen-area | AspenTimes.com

Wildlife officials set to launch annual study of deer, elk in Aspen-area

Helicopters will be used for operations in Roaring Fork Valley

Staff report
Colorado Parks and Wildlife fitted a GPS collar onto a doe deer as part of a wildlife study. (CPW/courtesy photo)

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will use helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft over the next few months to conduct wildlife research in several parts of Colorado, including the Roaring Fork Valley.

The winter study work will include operations to capture, assess and collar elk, deer and pronghorn. Elk are being studied in the Roaring Fork Valley for a second year as part of a six-year project.

“CPW is capturing and collaring adult female elk and calves to assess the health of herds, estimate survival rates, identify major sources of mortality and evaluate the influence of human recreation on elk herds,” the wildlife division said in a news release.

In addition to the study, wildlife officials will use aircraft for “classification” or counts of the big game.

“It’s not possible to count all of the deer and elk across the landscape, so CPW staff classify animals by age and sex to determine the health of the herds and to compare to objectives in her management plans,” CPW’s statement said. “These operations provide wildlife managers with supplementary data that is used to generate computer models which estimated wildlife population numbers and composition.”

The studies are typically conducted in winter.

“Winter is the safest time to conduct capture work,” Nathaniel Rayl, a big game researcher for CPW said in the statement. “Cool ambient temperatures and moderate snow depths help prevent overheating and injury when capturing big game species with a helicopter.”

Matt Yamashita, area wildlife manager for the area that includes the Roaring Fork Valley, said deer and elk typically congregate during winter months, so the aerial surveys are more effective.

People may see low-flying aircraft during the surveys. Helicopters may hover at a low elevation before moving on to the next survey area.

“The short duration of flight disturbances is warranted by the important biological information that is gathered,” Yamashita said.

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