Ely Capture Relocates 100 Elk
In a cooperative effort involving a number of volunteers and financial donations from two private wildlife organizations, Nevada Division of Wildlife (NDOW) was able to capture 100 elk and move them to two areas of the state in need of a population boost.

Thirty PROWL (PReserving Our Wildlife Legacy) volunteers assisted NDOW biologists with the week-long capture project that resulted in the release of 50 elk onto Mt. Moriah on the Utah border east of Ely. The remaining animals were released into the Cherry Creek Mountain Range north of Ely.

NDOW utilized a contract with Hawkins and Powers, a company that specializes in the capture of animals using helicopters and specialized net guns. The animals were taken from four locations in the Snake Mountain Range near Ely. The Reno Chapter of Nevada Bighorns Unlimited (NBU) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) each contributed $20,000 to fund the capture effort.

According to NDOW Chief of Game, Gregg Tanner, the five-day-long elk project served a dual purpose. "We were able to remove elk from an area where the population is approaching the agreed upon limit set forth in the White Pine County Elk Plan. At the same time, we were able to secure animals for release into areas in need of a population boost."

"We are indebted to the volunteers as well as NBU and RMEF for their contributions, Tanner said, "because without them, this project would not have been possible."

Tanner explained that at one time wild elk could be obtained from other western states; however, the potential of diseases, including Chronic Wasting Disease, found in some western elk herds, has made this impossible for the foreseeable future.

The actual animal capture process, conducted by employees of Hawkins and Powers, involves the use of a powerful rifle, fired from a helicopter, that propels a net over the animal. Once elk were located and ensnared in the net, human "muggers" were then dropped to the ground to hobble and blindfold the elk, preparing it for the ride back, hanging below the helicopter, to the processing compound where the animal would be prepared for the trip to the release area. Only female and young animals were taken.

Once in the compound, the elk had ear tags attached and blood drawn to check for disease. Some of the elk were equipped with radio collars for monitoring studies over the next few years. The elk were then loaded into trailers for a round-about trip to the release sites, with a one-night stay over in Elko, according to Supervising Game biologist Larry Gilbertson.

"There have been cases of elk returning to the area where they were trapped, but studies have shown that by driving the elk around and letting them spend the night in a strange environment while still in the trailer, they become confused and are less likely to wander away from the release site, if it is in good elk habitat."

The elk were driven from the capture sites to NDOW's Elko office where they spent the night. The next day they were then moved back on a route that took them through Eureka, and finally to the release sites in White Pine County. The sites were chosen based upon the proper habitat for elk and the sightings of mature bulls that have pioneered into these areas.

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