Hovering aircraft will be seen in parts of north central Washington soon. The aircraft will be used to capture and study mule deer in the region.

Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife says it will summon professional crews to collect dozens of mule deer and fit them with GPS/satellite tracking collars. WDFW officials say the tracking devices will allow them to evaluate movement and migration patterns; the devices will allow them to learn more about the use of habitat and survival methods. The collars are programmed to drop off the deer after four years.

WDFW says the deer will be captured in a humane manner and will be released into the wild.

Mule deer in Klickitat, Walla Walla, Columbia, and Garfield counties will also undergo the same treatment for research purposes.

Researchers say these studies will help the state bolster mule deer conservation efforts. In recent years, mule deer have lost winter habitat along the lower elevations of the east slope of the Cascades to human development and declining habitat quality caused by drought, wildfire, and invasive plant species.

Captures are scheduled to begin in Okanogan County the second full week of January and continue south and east as work is completed in each study area.