Above: helicopter brought down by an elk during a net gunning operation. Photo by Wasatch County Search and Rescue
(Originally published at 10:18 a.m. MT February 14, 2018)
An elk took down a helicopter Monday afternoon during a net gunning operation in Utah. It happened about 40 air miles east of Provo near Currant Creek Reservoir (map).
Officials from the Division of Wildlife Resources hired the crew and the helicopter, a Hughes 369D, to capture elk using a net fired from a gun. As the helicopter flew 10 feet above the ground the gunner in the back seat fired the net over the cow elk, but its legs were not entangled as hoped. It jumped and struck the tail of the helicopter which became uncontrollable and crashed.
The 2 people aboard the chopper are okay except a few small cuts and bruises. They were both checked out by Fruitland EMS. As for the chopper not so good. Not something you see every day when an elk brings down a chopper.” – Wasatch County Search and Rescue Facebook page
Photos show the tail rotor was no longer attached to the helicopter.
— Dan Rascon (@DanKUTV) February 14, 2018
Net gunning is a commonly used practice for relocating animals, collecting biological samples, and placing radio tracking collars on wildlife. Some contractors use a modified shotgun to fire the net that falls over the animal, entangling its legs and trapping it. The helicopter then lands and the crew subdues the animal which can be treated at the site or transported in a cargo net to another location for processing.
UPDATE at 11:11 a.m. MT Feb. 14, 2018. Unfortunately, the elk did not survive.