Saturday, December 23, 2017

Bill Schiess: A bird’s eye view of winter wildlife

A coyote hunting along the edge of the South Fork of the Snake River near the Byington boat launch, headed for the thick brush as the sound of a helicopter’s blades reached us. A near-mature bald eagle left its perch to hunt up river as the non-nature sounds filled the canyon.

Landing on the snow covered parking lot, Paul Atwood, wildlife biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, climbed out of the whirly bird to visit with me while the rest of the crew refueled the machine.

“After last year’s hard winter, the deer numbers are down a little,” Atwood reported as we shook hands. “And with the lack of snow this year, many are still high along the top of the ridges. We saw about 500 deer in two hours and will fly the canyon until we get 700 counted and then we will head for the Teton River canyon for this afternoon.”

Atwood’s crew were making a mule deer ratio survey in the Palisades Population Management Unit (PMU) to determine what the ratio of bucks and fawns to does are in that area.

After observing 700 deer in each PMU and getting the ratios, those ratios are applied to the whole population of deer taken in the last population count taken when all the deer are on their winter range.

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