Resource and Wildlife Management

How do we use aviation to support resource missions?

Nearly 40 percent of aircraft use by the National Park Service supports natural resource management. These missions include spraying invasive species; removing exotic plants; animal/bird surveys; hydrology; aerial capture, tagging, and eradication of animals (ACETA); trail work; and archeology. Some of these aviation missions require special pilot skills and qualifications. For example, ACETA operations are probably the highest risk operations conducted; often pilots must possess the skills to fly an aircraft at a low level, following a radio signal or the animal itself, and be able to position the aircraft so personnel can shoot a net or dart at the animal.

Resource managers can also directly participate in resource missions by using some pretty unconventional and innovative methods to collect their data.

A person wearing protective gear examines equipment midway between a helicopter in the background and a grizzly bear that lies unmoving in the foreground
Biologist collecting samples from darted grizzly bears, Alaska National Parks.

NPS Photo

How Changing Tides Operations Work

Changing Tides darting operations are done from a helicopter carrying a crew of three. The helicopter patrols the coastal area between Cape Douglas and Hallo Bay (approximately 30 miles). Bears must be darted in safe terrain (e.g., away from water sources, on level surfaces, etc). When a suitable bear for darting has been located, the helicopter drops off the third person outside the area, as well as the helicopter’s rear door. This is to reduce weight, improve maneuverability, and remove all obstacles for the shooter. Bears are darted with minimal chase, and are asleep within minutes. After confirming that the bear is safely down, the pilot collects their third team member and lands near the bear to begin processing.

A person carries the door of a helicopter near a helicopter on tundra with mountain backdrop.
Dropping off the third passenger and the rear door minimizes the pursuit time prior to capture.

NPS/K. Chritz

A person uses a gloved hand to fly a kite with a digital camera attached
Photogrammetry using a simple digital camera attached to a kite at Big Bend National Park.

NPS Photo

A man in NPS uniform wades from a floatplane to shore
Securing Katmai National Park and Preserve's Beaver DHC-2 MK 1.

NPS Photo

A helicopter lifts a slingload from a pile of rocks.
A helicopter takes the sling load of rock to one of five locations on the Lassen Peak Trail at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

NPS Photo

Last updated: July 20, 2016