The helicopter and net gun is a technique used to capture white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and is useful in a variety of habitat types and at various population densities with the ability to be highly selective. During capture, deer may sustain injuries or even die as a result of capture and handling, and may also be prone to capture myopathy. Therefore, our objectives were to determine 1) type and frequency of injuries sustained during the helicopter and net-gun capture, and 2) the effects of capture on survival of radiocollared deer. We captured 3,350 white-tailed deer from 1998 to 2005 using a net gun fired from a helicopter on 5 southern Texas, USA, ranches. Additionally, we captured 51 yearling males and 49 mature (≥4 yr of age) males and fitted them with radiocollars to monitor their survival. We recorded injuries and mortalities during capture and ranked the seriousness of injuries on a scale from 0 to 4. We recorded 281 injuries (8.4%) and as a result of capture, at least 206 deer had broken antlers (6.1%), 55 were injured (1.6%), and 20 were direct mortalities (0.6%). The most common antler injury was broken antler tines and the most common body injury was broken legs. Postcapture mortality rates were low (1%) for this capture method. Based on capture-related injuries, mortalities, and postcapture survival, we found the helicopter and net gun to be a safe capture technique compared to other capture techniques, particularly when conditions are favorable.
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Vol. 72 • No. 1