The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) this week initiated efforts to capture wolves, elk and deer by helicopter in northeastern California and outfit the animals with GPS collars. The capturing and collaring will continue through the end of the month as weather allows.
CDFW has contracted with Leading Edge Aviation to conduct the helicopter captures in Lassen, Modoc, Plumas and Siskiyou counties. CDFW environmental scientists and veterinary staff will provide direction and support on the ground. It is the first time CDFW has used helicopters to capture and collar gray wolves.
Capture teams will target wolves in the Whaleback Pack in Siskiyou County and the Lassen Pack, which roams portions of Lassen and Plumas counties. Neither pack has wolves with functioning GPS collars. The collars can transmit data to CDFW scientists twice a day for up to two years and provide detailed information about movements, habitat preferences and location. In the case of wolves, the collars provide information that CDFW can share with cattle and sheep ranchers about nearby wolf activity to help reduce conflicts though the collars are not reliable sources for real-time data.
Recent attempts to capture and collar California wolves from the ground have been unsuccessful. Helicopter captures are an added effort while ongoing ground captures will be adapted to increase success. Other Western states, including Oregon and Washington, routinely use helicopters to capture and monitor their wolf populations.
Captured and collared mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk will enhance CDFW’s knowledge of distribution, abundance, migration patterns, recruitment, survival and habitat use.
The captures will take place on lands managed by the USDA Forest Service as well as on private properties with permission from landowners. CDFW is grateful to the USDA Forest Service, timberland owners and other private landowners that are providing access to their lands for the capture.