SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The city of Sioux Falls is counting deer from the land and the sky this fall.

Animal control officer Julie Lindstrom said a drone is being used for the second year in a row. The drone will help count deer in the northern part of Sioux Falls near Rice Street.

“It’s being used in remote areas…,” Lindstrom said.

The Rice Street area is about 4-square miles north of Rice Street, south of 60th Street North and east of I-229, Lindstrom said.

“They are flying at night looking for the heat signals from the deer,” Lindstrom said.

The deer count by drone also provides additional training to city staff.

“…it’s good training in case they have to use them to find a missing person,” Lindstrom said. “The person learns to recognize the heat signals on the ground.”

Drones work best to count when the leaves have fallen from the trees and when the ground is colder, she said.

The trees have also gotten colder, which is important because trees can give off a heat signal, Lindstrom said.

The city also counts deer in city parks and along the bike trail from Falls Park to Sertoma Park.

Spotlights are used to locate and count deer. The counts in parks and along the bike trail are index counts because even with a spotlight, counters can’t see through all the trees and brush, Lindstrom said.

The drone counts are more full counts to provide better estimates, Lindstrom said.

The drones are used to count different areas on different nights in the Rice Street area. Typically, there will be a landform between areas selected to count, she said.

When deer find water and cover for winter, they don’t travel far which reduces the chances of them traveling between count sites, Lindstrom said.

The city has done deer counts since 2015. The counts are a key part of the city’s deer management plan.

The count will be submitted to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to be used to determine how many deer should be harvested in the city. The city and GFP also use the number of deer involved in crashes in the city and neighborhood complaints.

“We start removing deer with the city’s team right after Christmas,” Lindstrom said.

The counts from 2015 through 2020 show a higher concentration of deer in the Tomar Park and Tuthill Park area, Lindstrom said.