MONONA – Once again, Department of Natural Resources biologists will conduct an aerial deer count in the chronic wasting disease (CWD) Eradication Zones (DEZ) beginning in early January, weather permitting.

Agency biologists will use a helicopter to determine the number of deer in the 1,352 square mile western DEZ encompassing much of Iowa County, western Dane County, southern Sauk County plus small sections of Columbia, Green and Richland Counties, and the 321 square mile eastern DEZ covering southeast Rock County and southwest Walworth County.

Survey flights are timed to begin after the Jan. 3, 2005 end of the general archery and firearm seasons in the two DEZ’s.

Biologists estimate the survey will take at least three weeks, but “everything is dependent on having at least three to four inches, preferably six to 12 inches, of snow on the ground to cover logs and stumps so deer are clearly visible on the landscape,” noted agency wildlife population ecologist Robert Rolley, Monona.

“Hopefully we can get up in the air soon to take advantage of the anticipated snowfall here in southern Wisconsin,” he added.

DNR frequently uses aircraft for wildlife population surveys, such as counting bald eagles and trumpeter swan nests, and tracking wolves. Pilots generally fly high enough to avoid spooking animals, since that only makes counting more difficult when deer are moving about.