By Gary Allen Burns, forestry consultant
The Winter 2017 issue of Texas Land has a good article on helicopter wildlife surveys. The author is Gregg Simons, a wildlife biologist with Wildlife Consultants, LLC. He believes that the term ‘wildlife survey’ is more accurate than ‘wildlife census,’ which implies an actual count rather than a sampling. He cautions that the number of deer seen may be quite variable from day to day, and he estimates that his helicopter surveys see 35-45 percent of the deer herd.
Since it is very difficult to get a good estimate of total numbers of animals on a given area (density), Gregg suggests concentrating on more reliable population estimates such as sex rations, fawn production, age structure, relative antler performance and population distribution. Surveys are probably more valuable if viewed as trends rather than actual counts, and it is imperative to duplicate the survey variables (timing, number of observers, etc.) to ensure accuracy.