Pilot cited for flying too close to elk herd
An Arizona medical pilot has been cited for harassing wildlife for flying a helicopter just above an elk herd after dropping off a patient at a hospital in Grand Junction.
Owen Park, 35, of Page, was assessed 10 penalty points against his hunting and fishing privileges and fined $200, which he has paid, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a news release issued Thursday.
The agency said the incident happened Sept. 23 in a canyon near the headwaters of Granite Creek, southwest of Grand Junction. It said Park, a pilot for Classic Lifeguard Air Medical in Page, was returning there with a medical crew when hunters saw him make several passes below the rim of the canyon and at treetop level, scattering elk.
“The people that saw this told me that the pilot ruined their hunt,” Ty Smith, district wildlife officer in Grand Junction, said in the release. “When I mentioned this to Park, he agreed that his actions may have done that.”
Witnesses also said the helicopter appeared to be herding elk.
The witnesses saw the helicopter’s tail number, letting Smith trace it to the air medical service’s owner, M & J Leisure L.C. of Ogden, Utah. The company quickly put him in touch with Park, who said he didn’t feel he’d harassed the elk, but was trying to get a better look at them, the news release said.
“We understand that observing wildlife from aircraft can provide great views, but it is very harmful to wildlife and can lead to a citation, or in some cases, the confiscation of the aircraft,” Smith said.
Parks and Wildlife regularly receives reports of low-lying aircraft appearing to harass wildlife, and in some cases airborne spotters illegally helping hunters find game.
No patients were on board the helicopter Park was flying when the harassment occurred, the agency said. No one on the helicopter besides Park was cited.