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Three hurt in wildlife study copter crash

Sat., Jan. 9, 2010

Biologists attempting to tranquilize animals

Two Idaho state biologists and a private pilot were injured Friday 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 Missoula hospital, Idaho Fish and Game officials said. None of the injuries was considered to be life threatening.

The men’s names were not released.

The crash just after 11 a.m. occurred 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 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.

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