If you hear about wildlife taking down an aircraft, the mind immediately thinks of birds. About the last thing you imagine is an elk jumping up and crashing a chopper.
Yet a group of Texas-based researchers operating in Utah now have just such a story.
The aircraft was reportedly trying to capture the elk, hovering about 10 feet above the ground in a mountainous section of eastern Utah. The crash happened after the elk leaped into the air and made contact with the helicopter’s tail rotor, killing the animal and crashing the helicopter.
The two occupants of the chopper escaped serious injury, thankfully.
Mark Hadley of the state Division of Wildlife Resources told the Associated Press that it’s not unusual for researchers to use helicopters in their work. He added:
The crew had launched a net to catch the animal, but when that didn’t immediately work the pilot started to slow down so someone could jump out and hobble the elk, Hadley said. As the helicopter slowed down, the elk collided with the rotor, Hadley said.
Some environmental groups have opposed the use of helicopters to monitor wildlife. They apparently believe it’s a simple matter to just walk up to these animals to capture them, collar them, and release. Of course, a lot of environmentalists have never left the city.
The ruling on the crash, at this point, is that it’s a fluke accident, which seems a fair assessment. It’s not like the majestic elk is the natural enemy of the helicopter, waging epic battles in the wild. This is just something that kind of happened.
Much to the chagrin of those who oppose the use of helicopters for wildlife monitoring, this incident is enough of a fluke that it seems unlikely it will lead to any changes. Similar maneuvers have probably been done thousands of times without a problem.
At best, we’re going to have to stop making fun of some of the weird headlines we see out of Florida.
We’re just glad no one was hurt and we can get a good chuckle over this bizarre event.