Written by: Nick Fowler
An elk netting/capture gun operation is a very expensive and dangerous task for Idaho Fish and Game Officers.
Costs range from $1,200-$1,500 an hour in helicopter fees, $500-$800 radio collars depending on the information the collar is capable of recording and transmitting, plus salaries and fees of the workers involved. A successful hour of net-gunning elk from the chopper results in the capture of three to five elk. The cost of getting three elk radio collared in an hour? $2700-$3900.
Cow Elk #15639
Cow elk #15639 was net-gunned from a helicopter on Jan 23, 2015 around seven miles east of Fairfield, ID. She was an estimated four and a-half years old at the time of her capture. Her collar transmitted locations through the Global-Star satellite system until March 21, 2018. Her movements were tracked and recorded every 13 hours until the batteries died. She had a 55-mile migration range from her Spring/Summer/Fall areas at around 8,000 ft. elevation down to her winter range at approximately 3,500 ft. elevation. If she made a similar migration each year of her life as she did for the three years the collar tracked her, she would have covered over 1,200 miles just migrating. A distance equivalent to walking from Boise, Idaho to Omaha, Nebraska.
Harvesting a Collared Animal
If you are fortunate enough to harvest an animal in Idaho with a radio/tracking collar, you are in no way in any type of trouble as long as the animal was taken legally. Hunter harvest is a component of the survival/mortality information Fish and Game hopes to receive. If you do harvest a collared animal, do not leave or destroy the collar. DO NOT CUT the collar off! The antenna/wire is located inside the leather neck band. You can take the collar off with simple tools many keep in their trucks, 4-wheelers and UTV’s, or you can remove the animal’s head then slide the collar off. Collars can be returned to any Fish and Game office. If an office is not located in convenient proximity to you, a Fish and Game Officer will pick the collar up, however, Idaho Fish and Game does offer a small reward for returned collars. Honestly, I feel the deep insight gained from the information on the collar about an animal’s life is an even better reward than the harvest itself.