- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - Idaho wildlife managers are embracing technology to more accurately monitor the state’s elk population.

The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1oaj7It ) that Idaho Department of Fish and Game is using tracking collars in addition to aerial surveys to count herds.

The collars have been placed on 60 elk in each of six geographic areas throughout the state. The collars help biologists keep tabs on where the animals migrate, what types of habitat they use and when an animal has died.

“We always try to get to a dead elk. That can be the real telling part,” said Brad Compton, the state’s big game manager. “Whether an animal lives or dies is important, but knowing why it dies can really help you in identifying a potential limiting factor and how to address it.”

Typically wildlife officials use helicopters to crisscross game management units and tally the elk they see. The counts are expensive, labor intensive and only show the status of an elk herd at a particular moment of time. They are only done in particular elk zones every three to five years.

“That was unacceptable to us, especially in today’s age. With wolves on the landscape, elk populations can be more dynamic,” Compton said.

The collars allow biologists to know where elk are between the time-consuming counts. The department began placing collars on elk a year ago and now is monitoring more than 700 elk.

Wildlife researcher Craig White said if the data collected from collars proves to be accurate it may be possible to move away from the aerial surveys.

“We fly elk zones every three to five years, but if we can use this information we can probably spread out that flying, make it every six or eight or even 10 years,” he said.

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com

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