The Division of Wildlife Resources has suspended all animal capture operations involving the use of helicopters until a thorough review of its helicopter capture procedures is completed.
This comes after a Dec. 27 helicopter accident that took the lives of a DWR employee and two members of Helicopter Capture Services. The DWR contracted with the private company to capture moose near I-80 in Parleys Canyon east of Salt Lake City. The moose were posing threats to motorists after being pushed close to the freeway by heavy snowfall in higher elevations this winter.
"The safety of those involved in these capture operations is our top priority, and we won't be doing them again until we've reviewed all of our capture procedures," says Alan Clark, Wildlife Section chief for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Division staff are like an extended family, and we're all suffering from this tragic accident."
The Division will begin its review in mid-January.
Clark says that without the use of helicopters, the Division must rely on other means to remove moose that pose threats to motorists in Parleys Canyon.
If possible, Clark says moose will be tranquilized by division personnel and carried to trailers for transport to a different location.
Division personnel will also try to move moose away from the road by hazing practices, such as firing firecracker shells at them. If these procedures don't address the threat, or aren't practical, moose may be shot by division personnel when need be.
"As was the case last week, we continue to be concerned about the risk moose pose to motorists and will address the problem with the most appropriate approach," Clark says.
"We're urging motorists to slow down and drive cautiously through this area, especially if they're driving at night," Clark continued. "Moose are large animals, but they're dark-colored and are very hard to see at night. Motorists need to slow down and drive cautiously through this area, or in any area of the state where big game animals are close to roads.
"When people see a big game animal near a road, they should visualize that a one-year-old child is standing there and act accordingly," he says. "These animals are just like children in the sense that they don't understand the dangers vehicles pose, and will walk right in front of your car."
Motorists are urged to report animals that may be near roadways to the DWR.