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Idaho biologists, pilot hurt in helicopter crash

Two Idaho state biologists and a private pilot were injured today when the helicopter they were in crashed in a remote forested area in the vicinity of the Clearwater River in the central Panhandle mountains.

At least two of the injured men were airlifted to a hospital in Missoula, Idaho Fish and Game officials said. None of the injuries were considered to be life threatening.

The names of the men were not released.

The crash occurred just after 11 a.m. while teams of biologists were working on a study of elk, moose and wolves in the Kelly Creek area north of the North Fork of the Clearwater River.

The injured men were aboard a Hughes 500 helicopter being operated by Quicksilver Air under contract with the state.

The biologists aboard the helicopter were attempting to tranquilize the large mammals so that a team on the ground could fit them with radio collars for tracking purposes, said Ed Mitchell, a department spokesman.

“It is part of a massive study we are doing on ungulate (hoofed animals) survival and predators,” he said.

The evacuation by medical helicopter from Missoula was made from a forest landing area, he said.

Biologists log about 1,000 hours a year in aircraft for surveys and research. In 2000, a biologist for the department died in a helicopter crash in North Idaho, but this is the first accident since then, officials said.

Officials said they have suspended fish and game flights until Monday, pending a review of safety procedures.

“Fish and Game takes safety seriously; all personnel are required to take safety training before flying and adhere to strict safety procedures,” according to a press release today.

The study is part of the department’s broader efforts to manage wildlife stocks.