GPS Wildlife Tracking
When it comes to tracking animal locations, wildlife conservation experts frequently use tracking collars and other tracking technology in combination with the global positioning system (GPS) to monitor animal movement. Let’s take a closer look at how these tracking and monitoring systems for wildlife conservation work.
Let’s start with some of the tracking products that wildlife biologists and other scientists might use for tracking animal movement and animal locations, whether looking at migration or pack behavior or other useful metrics for wildlife conservation science. Location data can tell scientists a great deal, and GPS and VHF radio tracking are both a big part of tracking and monitoring programs.
Ground And Aerial Tracking In Wildlife
Common tracking technology, and how it is used, include the following:
- Tracking Collars: Many tracking collars are GPS collars, in that they include a GPS receiver and may or may not include a way to transmit location data and finescale movements, such as with a radio antenna or radio transmitter. Other types of tracking collars may also be used, including iridium collars—which still use GPS and satellite telemetry, but are newer and consequently may be more efficient or reliable.
- GPS Receiver: Whether a band that tracks birds’ GPS locations or a chip (such as are sometimes implanted in fish), GPS telemetry works by tracking and monitoring the location data for the GPS receiver.
- GPS Collars: Other animals, such as large game, may be outfitted with a GPS collar attached rather than a band or chip.
- VHF Transmitter: Another option may be to use VHF radio tracking, relying on radio telemetry and a combination of a radio transmitter and radio receiver for picking up the signal.
- Satellite Tracking: Using a satellite system (such as the global positioning system (or GPS) or Argos satellites) works by using satellite telemetry to get location data.
Satellite Tracking Data For A Species Of Wildlife
Some of the equipment providers wildlife conservation biologists might work with include Telemetry Solutions, Argos satellites (or Argos systems), or Cellular Tracking Technologies, among others. In each case, the scientists work with a telemetry system or GPS telemetry to track animal locations and finescale movements, picking up the signal of the animal (whether a wild dog or a grizzly bear, a birds GPS or a coyotes radio signals) to get a wealth of data that in turn helps them understand animal behavior.
In general, wildlife conservation experts rely on these technologies for tracking and monitoring location data because it helps them better understand animal behavior, including pack behavior, hunting patterns, sleep cycles, and more. Following animal movement using tracking technology can help scientists understand human impacts on various animals, as well.
For instance, until recently, it was not well understood how snowmobiles might impact wolverine populations, which was made especially tricky by the conditions of winter monitoring and both that snowmobilers often go a long way from traditional roads as well as wolverines’ large home territories. Without GPS and radio tracking, gathering the requisite and relevant data was previously largely impossible. Tracking technology in conjunction with snowmobiler surveys, however, has shown that it does not take very much snowmobile traffic to greatly disrupt wolverines, affecting both their litter sizes and hunting behaviors. As a result, an increase in only a few snowmobiles per year may make a huge difference in the health of a local wolverine population.
And GPS wildlife tracking has allowed wildlife conservation experts to help craft meaningful policy as they better understand animal movement and behavior patterns for a wide range of species—not just wolverines.
Birds GPS in particular has helped scientists understand migration routes and the importance of certain stopover points to the health of huge populations. Without tracking and monitoring—and the hard data that was enabled by tracking products—this was previously largely anecdotal suspicion.
Matthew is a freelance writer who is passionate about technology, music, photography, and decentralized finance.