The cause of the crash is under investigation. Critics have said aerial gunning is inherently unsafe as pilots are often distracted, and because they fly at low altitudes, there is little room for error. Pilots have flown into trees, land formations, and even power lines. See TV Footage of Downed Plane at http://kutv.com/topstories/local_story_152141847.html
Since 1989, Wildlife Services has crashed at least 25 helicopters or planes while aerial gunning, resulting in at least 9 fatalities and 34 injuries. The USDA’s aerial gunning accidents have occurred in California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming—although the program operates in all Western states. The federal program spends millions of dollars, to kill predators in ranching areas.
In FY 2005, Wildlife Services killed 34,056 animals by aerial gunning: 2 badgers, 247 bobcats, 2 domestic cats, 27,033 coyotes, 154 red foxes, 53 grey wolves, and 1 Mexican wolf.