The INL, serves as important winter range to thousands of
pronghorn antelope and hundreds of mule deer and elk. These
big game animals freely move between the desert and the
surrounding mountains and valleys.
Semi-annual aerial surveys of big game species are
conducted in January and June. ESER biologists conduct
aerial surveys of the INL from a small airplane flown at
half-mile intervals. During the flights, biologists count the
number of pronghorn antelope, elk, and mule deer that can be
seen from the plane. In addition, they count game in
agricultural fields adjacent to the INL. The data shown is the
number of animals observed, not a population estimate.
The numbers are used to show population trends across time.
While elk and mule deer have only been counted in the aerial
surveys since the 1990s, pronghorn population estimates for
the INL date back to the mid-1970s. The information obtained
from these studies is used to estimate wintering and summering
populations of elk, deer and pronghorn antelope with
sufficient accuracy to assess trends and to meet INL needs
to forecast population increases that may result in
significant depredation of agricultural areas surrounding the
Note: No elk surveys were conducted in 1993 or