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Drone Operator Fined For Disturbing Elk Herd

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Last week, a Washington D.C. resident was fined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for using his drone to fly over a large herd of elk in hopes of getting up-close photographs. The drone caused the herd to bolt and run about a half mile on the National Elk Refuge near Jackson.

Elk Refuge spokeswoman Lori Iverson said with so much snow this winter, it’s already been a hard year for wildlife and the drone caused the elk extra stress. Iverson said it’s important for drone operators to educate themselves on the policies of any agency where they plan to fly.

“Part of it is just being aware of your circumstances, what natural resources or wildlife impacts it could have. Knowing that there’s an airport in proximity to where you’re flying your drone. Is there helicopter use? In addition, to know the regulations of having to have the drones registered with the FAA,” said Iverson.

Iverson said not only did the drone disturb wildlife, but it also could have caused problems for helicopters using the nearby St. John’s Medical Center or Jackson Hole Airport.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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