A portion of the study on the elk in Custer State Park, South Dakota, utilizes a helicopter crew. The helicopter crew will go in first and dart some cow elk, then return and pick up the researchers. When the researchers reach the sedated cow elk, they fit them with implants and radio collars to track their movement, and when they calve in the spring the researchers then also radio collar the calves.
This year after tranquilizing one cow elk, the pilot told the researchers they wouldn't believe it but a mountain lion was trying to make lunch out of one of the drugged animals. Actually it was very believable though, as this is exactly what happened last year.
After falling asleep with the tranquilizer's help a cow elk fell into a thick area of vegetation, a mountain lion was there and made easy lunch out of the elk before researchers could get there. This year the helicopter hazed the mountain lion, staying low until the cat gave up. Also the elk had been freshly darted, and had some run left in it, unlike the elk last year that had basically fallen asleep by the mountain lion. Chad Lehman, senior wildlife biologist for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department said researchers are grateful the helicopter crew was able to intervene this time around. "I don't want to put elk in harm's way by doing this research," he said. From DevilsLakeJournal.com .