Elk NetworkCapturing and Collaring Elk, Moose from the Sky – Not Your Ordinary Job

General | January 25, 2024

Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

To most folks, the notion of riding in a helicopter to locate, capture and place a GPS collar on an elk or moose seems like something only seen in movies or nature documentaries. For many Fish and Game staff, it’s another day on the job, and it’s all done with the goal of understanding and managing big game populations to provide continued hunting opportunities for sportsmen.

When asked why the information is important, Barb Moore, regional wildlife biologist in the Panhandle Region replied, “When an animal has a collar on it, we learn so much about habitats it uses, when and where it moves and if it dies, what caused it to die. All of this allows us to make informed decisions when it comes to season setting, tag numbers and predator management.”

Here in the Panhandle Region, collars will soon be deployed with a particular focus on moose and elk calves.

Why focus on calves, you may be asking? Collar data on adult cow elk and moose over the past several years have indicated that across the state, their survival is relatively high and stable from year-to-year. The story is quite different for elk and moose calves who survive at a much lower and more variable rate, which is true for most animals during their first year of life. Variation in survival can affect a population’s ability to grow or even remain stable. Monitoring calf survival over time gives Fish and Game a more complete understanding of what might be driving changes in elk and moose abundance and allows them to better predict how the population will do in the future.

Specific to moose, the biggest piece of information missing is how well calves survive from 6 to 12 months of age. Understanding what happens in that six-month time window will hopefully shed some light onto what is limiting moose populations in Idaho.

Biologists are planning to deploy around 50 collars between moose and elk calves this year. Getting collars out isn’t easy and doesn’t always go according to plan. Depending on weather conditions, the effort may take several days and up to a week, so if you see or hear a chopper in the mountains, you know Fish and Game staff are still at it!

(Video credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)