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Michigan DNR Wrapping Up Aerial Elk Survey in Northern Counties

Counting all the elk in Northern Michigan can be a tough task, making the best way to do it from a bird’s eye view.

The DNR is wrapping up this year’s elk survey, flying over Otsego and Montmorency counties.

At 500 feet high, observers count the number of bulls, cows and calves in each herd, covering 88 different "transecs" of 8×2 mile grids.

The DNR then records how many there were and the animals’ overall conditions in three categories: distribution, composition and population.

It’s an important task that helps set hunting quotas each year.

"When we are flying our transecs, it can be pretty bumpy," says Mark Monroe, DNR wildlife technician out of Gaylord. "We are flying at low levels, 500 feet, the winds really affect you. You are bouncing around quite a bit. When you are circling animals, you are doing tight circles so you have to have a pretty strong stomach. You see a big bull from the plane. It’s pretty impressive.

He says it’s all about natural balance.

"This is very importance because this is how we set our quotas for our elk hunts for the next two years," Monroe says. "We’ll be submitting [data] based on this estimation, then we have an elk work group that a number of us all attend and we’ll be able to set the quota."

Teams fly about six hours each day for nearly two weeks.

They expect to be finished tomorrow — weather permitting.