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01 April 2024

Updated Aerial Survey Methods a Success!


Over the past several years, Manitoba’s Wildlife Branch has undertaken an initiative to
modernize the big game aerial survey program. In order make informed management
decisions regarding hunting opportunities and conservation of big game species, it is
important to have updated survey information. As part of this modernization, the Wildlife
Branch is incorporating new technology to improve wildlife surveys.

The Brandon meeting was held at the Riverbank Discovery Centre and put on by the Wildlife Branch. The local staff and Western Region Wildlife Manager Matt Tower explained the 3 different techniques the province now uses to conduct aerial surveys. 

The first method is the traditional/helicopter where the area being surveyed is flown in a grid and staff biologists are passengers performing visual counts of species they are targeting. 


The second method is fixed wing infrared, which is a piloted aircraft contractor Owyhee Aerial Research, that flies the grid and records the survey using infrared technology. The benefit of this is that they can cover a tremendous amount of ground in a short amount of time. The surveys are conducted at night when the ambient temperatures are the coldest, so the animal heat signature shows up the best in this situation. Also the survey is recorded so when determining the animal counts they can review and recount larger groups of animals. 

The third method is by large drone contractor Superwake. The drone is unmaned and flown during the day remotely. The wings are equipped with solar panels to recharge the batteries while it is flying the survey, so they can fly alot longer on clear sunny days. The survey is also recorded with this method to review the count numbers. 

The new technology is incredible and the ability to record the surveys to review and obtain accurate count information is a massive tool for wildlife management in creating seasons and bag limits. Another huge bonus with this technology is the ability to target multiple species at the same time with a single survey.

The surveys will also be able to help biologists determine areas where CWD positive tested deer were located and another way of finding wintering grounds and food sources where animals congregate to hopefully help with managing the disease.

The final presentation at the meeting was with Squeal on Pigs Manitoba. This is a group dedicated to the reporting and removal of invasive pigs in Manitoba. It is important to report wild pigs as soon as possible. They damage the environment such as water sources, natural habitat, uproot and trample agriclutural crops, carry disease which threaten farm livestock and reproduce alarmingly fast.  

Here is a video on the surveying methods as well: