Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to monitor sandhill cranes with drones


RIDGEFIELD — Researchers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will conduct drone surveys over known locations of sandhill cranes in Klickitat County to assess the technology's effectiveness in population monitoring, according to an April 4 announcement.

According to the statement, the purpose of this research is to use drones to capture high-quality images of sandhill crane habitats and assess their effectiveness in identifying nest locations. WDFW biologists will also assess the impact of drones on survey coverage and speed while considering their integration into future survey workflows.

Drone flights may occur, weather permitting, during daylight hours from April through July. Flights will travel over identified state public lands and waters in western Klickitat County where sandhill cranes are present, the statement said. WDFW will seek pre-approval by other private or public landowners should the Department consider flights over additional lands.

Flights will be conducted by WDFW staff with Federal Aviation Administration Small Unmanned Aircraft System Remote Pilot certification while following FAA and WDFW policies, the statement said. WDFW staff will maintain a visual line of sight and an appropriate altitude to avoid disturbances to wildlife or people. No area closures or significant public impacts are expected.

Breeding sandhill cranes arrive in Klickitat and Yakima counties in early March, with most nesting occurring from April to June in wet meadows and grasslands, according to the announcement. The cranes and their young leave the state between late September and mid-October. WDFW has listed all three subspecies of sandhill crane occurring in Washington — greater, lesser and Canadian — as state endangered.


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