Aerial Surveillance: CDFW Monitors Big Game Population Across Lassen and Modoc Counties


Over the next two months, you may spot a hovering helicopter over Lassen and Modoc Counties as the CDFW conducts its annual big game population survey from the sky.

The survey will monitor mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep populations throughout the state through March.

The CDFW uses different methods depending on the environment. They set up trail cameras and analyze fecal DNA for places with more trees. In open areas, they will conduct aerial surveys, which helps them collect data quickly over larger spaces.

The scientists will analyze the numbers using statistical models to estimate the total population of each species in different hunt zones. This helps wildlife managers determine how the population is doing, considering factors like climate change, habitat quality, and human-wildlife conflict.

This data will also be used to make recommendations to the California Fish and Game Commission about regulated hunting, like tag quotas, seasons, and zone boundaries.

CDFW officials note that following recent harsh winters, these efforts are critical as big game populations may have experienced the negative impacts of the weather conditions.

Big game hunters and others are encouraged to participate in the commission’s annual regulatory cycles. Information regarding upcoming meetings, including dates, locations, background documents, and virtual meeting links, are available at the California Fish and Game Commission website.