Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes

Using drones to monitor predators


April 12, 2018

Mark Dykes

During a recent meeting of the Hot Springs County Predator Management Board, members take a drone for a test flight. The drone has a wearable headset that controls its camera.

Certainly one of the more popular tech gadgets in recent years has been the drone. Going from a term that was tied closely with military applications, drones have now become a popular recreation, possible means of delivery and a way to get some cool aerial photographs.

But, the flying machines also serve a purpose when it comes to observing and monitoring predators.

Those who want to become Wildlife Services unmanned aircraft system (UAS) pilots must first get approval from their state director or program coordinator and take the FAA Part 107 certification test which covers a spectrum of commercial uses for drones.

Potential pilots must also take a weeklong Wildlife Services basic UAS training when they first start using drones.

Michael Burrell, the district supervisor for Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service with Wildlife Services, stated the concept of using UAS "is mostly in its infancy within our local Wildlife Services agency. We had just received our first drone this past month here in the WS Wyoming Northwest District. One of our personnel in Hot springs County has been certified for UAS use and will be one of our lead UAS pilots in these beginning stages. Surely there will be trial and some error in the beginning, but hopefully we can also identify applications where the UAS will be a cost-saver and help provide a wider, bird's eye view that makes us more effective in our duties."

Burrell further added, "By no means do I feel like a UAS is the new silver bullet in the animal damage management world, but we have some ideas how we would like to start using the drone as another tool in the toolbox. For example, checking animal capture equipment that otherwise may be difficult to get to, getting a bird's eye view of an area where we may be looking for an individual animal, or looking for dead/missing livestock. Maybe more for our own employees safety, to be able to 'fly' around a dead livestock carcass to look for nearby grizzly bears before attempting to walk in and investigate the carcass."

More information on how one can utilize a drone is available online at


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