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Idaho chukar surveys over

Fatal crash brought scrutiny

The last good barometer Snake River region hunters have had on the hatching success of upland birds has ended. Idaho Fish and Game biologists will no longer conduct aerial chukar surveys, the agency has announced.

The agency has conducted annual chukar surveys since the mid-1980s primarily to provide a “forecast” for the upcoming season. The data were not biological data used to set seasons, officials said in a news release.

Washington ended its aerial chukar surveys in the Snake and Grande Ronde river areas after 1997 for reasons of expense.

Nevertheless, anecdotal reports of good-size chukar broods were coming in this summer to Idaho regional wildlife managers from river rafters and anglers.

Idaho’s chukar survey flights were axed after officials scrutinized the agency’s use of aerial surveys following a fatal helicopter accident last year along the Clearwater River that killed two fisheries biologists and the pilot. Several aerial surveys have been eliminated after a review was conducted to assess risk and cost in relation to value of biological information collected

The surveys offered sportsmen useful general trends in the fall population.

Without the surveys, biologists say they will rely more on collecting wings from harvested birds to obtain an index to production and estimate harvest from annual hunter surveys.