The Arizona Game and Fish Department has begun conducting aerial surveys of deer and javelina populations in southeastern Arizona, according to a press release from the department. The surveys will be done through Jan. 23.

The helicopter flights, lasting up to five hours, are scheduled for following dates and areas:

Jan. 2-3, Picacho Mountains and Avra Valley

Jan. 4-5, Santa Catalina and Rincon mountains

Jan. 6-7, Altar Valley and the Baboquivari Mountains

Jan. 8-9, Sierrita and Los Guijas mountains

Jan. 10-11, Whetstone and Empire mountains

Jan. 13-14, Huachuca Mountains and Canelo Hills

Jan. 16-17, Galiuro and Mule mountains

Jan. 18-19, Chiricahua Mountains

Jan. 20, Huachuca Mountains and Canelo Hills

Jan 22-23, Pinaleno and Pinalena mountains.

Fixed wing aircraft may also be used to do the surveys. Game and Fish routinely conducts big game surveys with aircraft in all over Arizona. These flights are a vital tool used by wildlife managers to accurately set annual hunt permit numbers to ensure the fitness of big game populations.

Although we attempt to conduct these flights so that there is minimal conflict with ongoing hunts, surveys may overlap with an open hunt, said Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of Game and Fish in Tucson. Hunters may encounter low flying Game and Fish Department aircraft conducting big game surveys during weekdays and on weekends, specifically in the area of Fort Huachuca due to weekday flight restrictions that are in place.

It is illegal for any aircraft to pursue wildlife during an established hunting season except for official game management purposes. Those who witness any type of aircraft displaying such activity should call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-352-0700.