Drones were counting deer at Sioux Falls


SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) – The town of Sioux Falls is counting deer from both land and sky this fall.

Animal control officer Julie Lindstrom said a drone was in use for the second year in a row. The drone will help count deer in the northern part of Sioux Falls, near Rice Street.

“It’s used in remote areas…” Lindstrom said.

The Rice Street area is approximately 4 square miles north of Rice Street, south of 60th Street North, and east of I-229, Lindstrom said.

“They fly at night looking for heat signals from deer,” Lindstrom said.

The deer count by drone also provides additional training for city staff.

“… That’s good training in case they need to use them to find a missing person,” Lindstrom said. “The person learns to recognize the heat signals on the ground.

Drones work best to count when leaves have fallen from trees and when the ground is colder, she said.

The trees have also gotten colder, which is important because the trees can give off a heat signal, Lindstrom said.

The city also has deer in city parks and along the Falls Park bike path to Sertoma Park.

Searchlights are used to locate and count deer. The counts in the parks and along the bike path are counts because even with a projector, the counters cannot see through all the trees and brush, Lindstrom said.

Drone counts are more comprehensive counts to provide better estimates, Lindstrom said.

Drones are used to count different areas on different nights in the Rice Street area. Typically, there will be some relief between the areas selected to be counted, she said.

When deer find water and shelter for the winter, they don’t travel far, reducing their chances of traveling between count sites, Lindstrom said.

The city has been performing deer counts since 2015. The counts are a key part of the city’s deer management plan.

The tally will be submitted to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to be used in determining how many deer should be harvested in the city. The city and GFP also use the number of deer involved in accidents in the city and neighborhood complaints.

“We start removing the deer with the town team right after Christmas,” Lindstrom said.

Counts from 2015 to 2020 show a higher concentration of deer in the Tomar Park and Tuthill Park area, Lindstrom said.

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