Oregon Wildlife Officials Use Drones in Elk Surveys

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It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’, it’s…what is it?

For the first time, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and its research partners at Oregon State University are using drones in field trials as part of annual elk surveys.

“UAS technology has promise to be relatively inexpensive and safe – much safer – than the way we survey elk now, which is generally from a helicopter,” said Herman Biederbeck, ODFW wildlife biologist.

ODFW conducts yearly elk population/composition surveys to make sure that age and sex ratios stay healthy.

“It’s part of our mission to monitor these populations to ensure they are being well managed for the public,” said Biederbeck.

This year drones were used in two field trials, one in January and another in March. The first tested the drone camera’s ability to capture imagery that allows biologists to classify elk by age and sex. A later field trial tested the aircraft’s ability to measure elk densities in forest stand types, another useful metric for managing elk.

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