UTAH – With Christmas and thoughts of Rudolph on the horizon, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will prove that deer can fly, albeit with some assistance from a helicopter. Each year, DWR captures approximately 1,000 large game animals such as moose, elk, buffalo, pronghorn and deer to conduct health assessments and place GPS collars on the animals to better understand migration patterns. This year’s effort will take place from late November to mid-December.
The process is well planned and executed in a way that minimizes stress on the animals. First, the target animals are located and then caught with the help of a net cannon fired from a helicopter. The animals are then transported to a staging area where the judging takes place.
Being able to track animals from one year to the next can tell biologists a lot about what’s happening to animals across the state. Biologists are able to answer big questions, like how long a deer lives in the state. Measurements of fat content can give an idea of the health of the animal. Additionally, a mule deer will have an implant that falls out at birth, allowing biologists to find recently born fawns.
“Following an animal through its life cycle is interesting – it teaches us a lot about its behavior and movements,” said Jim Christensen, Regional Wildlife Manager at DWR.
DWR conducts these recordings in the run-up to winter because cooler temperatures help alleviate animal stress as large game animals have a harder time regulating their body temperature. Cooler temperatures will also aid in the animal’s recovery when released.
Winter weather brings a change in the habits of many species as food becomes less available due to snowfall, forcing them to move to lower elevations, making their target species easier to find. The increase in moose sightings around Park City and the large herd of moose that roam the area and frequent the Swaner Preserve are prime examples of this.