The protection of the environment is an integral part of Canadian culture.
And, in a land where the helicopter is already king, it is normal that
missions of this type are performed by the rotary wing aircraft of the
numerous Ministries of Natural Resources of the Canadian provinces,
which have their own aviation departments.
With 22 planes and seven helicopters, including four
Eurocopter aircraft, the Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources could be mistaken for a small airline.
The ministry was even the first operator of the EC130 B4
in Canada, which entered into service alongside three
AS350 B2 AStars. These aircraft are widely used all year
round, and all over the province, for all sorts of environmental
protection missions. In total, 3,800 flight hours
are performed each year – all aircraft and mission types
The most frequent type of mission concerns various
wildlife research programmes on animals such as caribou,
wolves, tortoises, turtles, beavers and bears, and on birds
such as geese and ducks. The studies focus on the
population of individual native or reintroduced species
(moose, Canadian elks, wild turkeys and peregrine falcons),
and also their migration. Some of these studies rely
on the use of electronic collars to track the animals. These
collars are fitted beforehand, after the birds or animals
have been immobilised by an anaesthetic that could be
administered at a distance directly from the helicopters
using a dart rifle. The helicopters also perform other more
unusual missions, such as administering rabies vaccines
to the animals by leaving doses on the ground, which are
unpalatable to foxes, or even supplying fishing lakes
with juvenile fish or farmed eggs, which are transported in
incubator-like containers supplied with oxygen.
This operator is extremely satisfied with the Eurocopter
helicopters, emphasising the available power, the payload,
and the cabin volume and visibility.
The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources operates
five helicopters, including an EC120 B Colibri, which
perform the same type of missions, as well as “ecological”
surveillance of forests (checking for tree disease and the
presence of insects), and enforcing the laws governing
fishing, hunting, waste disposal, fires, pollution, and the
felling of trees.
The observation of land animals focuses in particular on
moose, white tail deer and beavers, and gives rise to a
biennial campaign of flights, usually based in an outlying
region and lasting approximately one month, during which
roughly 100 flight hours are recorded. These campaigns
are performed in line with very precise techniques. Using a
grid provided by the ministry, which divides the region to
be studied into a certain number of one-kilometre
squares, the observation flights are performed at very low
altitude, firstly following lateral axes and then the contours
of each square.
This time round, the qualities singled out by this operator
are the quantity of fuel that can be carried, the comfort and
the silence: a silence which usually permits the crew to
approach the animals without startling them.