How do you catch a 600-pound wild animal to fit it with a radio collar and study its health? It’s a conundrum that Idaho Fish and Game, along with the United States Forest Service, has gotten quite good at solving.
A video posted by the Forest Service last week shows how it works. A helicopter crew puts elk in the optimal position to be captured — an open flat in Southeast Idaho. A helicopter gunner than uses a net gun to ensnare individual elk, while a ground crew races over to the animal on snowmobiles. (The Forest Service, which partnered with some Idaho private land owners for the project, said winter is the safest time to capture the animals.)
The elk are fitted with a blindfold and hobble to help them remain calm as the net is removed. Wildlife biologists draw blood from the animals, take measurements, and fit them with radio collars so they can be tracked as part of a study on mortality, survival and more, according to the agency.
According to the video, the whole process is relatively quick and painless for the elk. It lasts less than 10 minutes.
After the ordeal, the animals quickly leap to their feet to rejoin the herd — and help researchers learn a little more about their kind.