Wild South Dakota Deer Study Video Footage

Earlier this month, a helicopter with trained wildlife wranglers dangled in the sky to capture 50 deer for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks' (GFP) new doe and fawn survival study.

And if you think you've ever worked at a crazy job, just watch these guys in action.

Believe it or not, there's actually a company that contracts to do this wild aerial work, California-based Native Range Services.

The company was hired to assist South Dakota wildlife biologists with capturing does to study their survival, as well as the survival of their spring fawns. The helicopter crew, comprised of a pilot, a net gunner and a "mugger," were dispatched in early March over the herd to first shoot a net at deer. Then, the mugger jumped from the helicopter onto the ground to wrestle the deer, tied its legs like a cowboy does a steer and blindfolded it to calm the animal.

"After untangling the doe from the net," said regional wildlife manager Julie DeJong, "the mugger then attached a radio-collar and inserted a vaginal implant transmitter (VIT). The VIT will stay in the doe until she gives birth, and will assist researchers in locating fawns soon after birth. Each doe was given a shot of penicillin and was released on site."

Both the collars and the VIT transmit a series of slow beeps that can be picked up by researchers using a GFP truck equipped with a specialized radio receiver. The radio collars beep faster if a deer is stopped in one location for more than 8 hours, usually indicating a death. The VIT transmitters are temperature sensitive and will speed up when they are expelled with the fawn.

"The second part of the study involves capturing the fawns and attaching radio transmitters," DeJong said. "Radio-collared fawns will be monitored once every 7-10 days for a year. Locating the fawns will involve spotlighting and walking searches."

About 75 percent of the project funding comes from federal matching funds acquired through Pittman-Robertson excise taxes paid on guns, ammunition and archery equipment. The remaining funds are from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses in South Dakota.


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