Big Game Aerial Surveys

Winter aerial surveys are one of the primary tools Manitoba Sustainable Development uses to collect important information on many of Manitoba’s big game populations.  Biologists use information from surveys, such as density of animals and sex and age composition, to aid in the assessment of the overall status of a big game population – moose, elk, white-tailed deer, gray wolf and barren ground caribou.  Every year, wildlife managers must determine which populations are to be surveyed by aircraft.  Surveys for moose, elk, white-tailed deer and gray wolves are generally conducted by Game Hunting Area (GHA).  

In most years, there is a greater need for surveys than there are funds available.  The Wildlife and Fisheries Branch allocates big game survey program funds on a priority ranking basis.  Survey needs for the entire province are ranked annually and the highest ranking surveys are funded from that ranked list.  When determining the rank, the following factors are considered:

  • population indicators suggest a change in level
  • public interest
  • population is subject to high use
  • environmental change
  • landscape development

Currently, the department's budget allows for four to five surveys to be completed on an annual basis. Although Manitoba Sustainable Development fully expects to complete all funded aerial surveys in any given year, suboptimal conditions may prevent an aerial survey to be flown.  


  • A minimum  snow base depth of 25 cm is required in the area to be surveyed
  • Temperature cannot be below -30˚C.
  • Aerial moose surveys are typically flown in January while elk and white-tailed deer surveys are flown in February.
  • Safe flying conditions.
Survey Results from 2015-16

Survey Results from 2014-15