Leaping elk crashes research helicopter that was trying to capture it

Wild deer jumps into chopper's tail rotor in Utah mountains, sending craft spinning to earth but causing the animal to die of its injuries

Lindsay Whitehurst
Wednesday 14 February 2018 08:30
comments
The research helicopter that was brought down by a leaping elk in the mountains of eastern Utah
The research helicopter that was brought down by a leaping elk in the mountains of eastern Utah

An elk leaped into a research helicopter that was trying to capture it and brought down the helicopter in a collision that also killed the elk, authorities said Tuesday.

The elk jumped into the chopper’s tail rotor as the aircraft flew about 10 feet (three metres) above ground in a mountainous part of eastern Utah, with its crew trying to drop a net on the elk, said Jared Rigby of the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office.

The two people on board weren’t seriously hurt, but the elk died of its injuries on Monday afternoon.

The state-contracted Texas-based crew was trying to capture and sedate the elk and give it a tracking collar to research its movements in the area about 90 miles (145 kilometres) east of Salt Lake City.

Helicopters are a frequently used and essential tool for monitoring remote wildlife in Utah, said Mark Hadley with the state Division of Wildlife Resources.

The tracking collars help wildlife officials monitor elk migration paths and survival rates. The state captures about 1,300 animals each winter, almost all using helicopters, and Tuesday’s downing of the helicopter was the first accident of its kind, he said.

The crew had launched a net it catch the animal, but when that didn’t immediately work the pilot started to slow down so someone could jump out and hobble the elk, Hadley said. As the helicopter slowed down, the elk collided with the rotor, Hadley said.

The helicopter was damaged on its tail rotor, right skid and underside, Rigsby said.

State officials will review the incident that appears to have been a fluke accident, Hadley said.

Environmental groups have protested the use of helicopters to monitor wildlife.

The group Wilderness Watch is objecting to a plan to study mountain goats using helicopters in a central-Utah wilderness area, calling the aircraft “unnecessary intrusion into some of our most treasured lands,” according to The Deseret News.

AP

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments