What does Game & Fish learn from collared wildlife?

JACKSON, Wyo. — Perhaps you’ve encountered a collared elk or deer. Or maybe you’ve have spotted a black bear or grizzly with an ear tag. More than one visitor to Yellowstone has asked Park rangers about wolves wearing collars.

Just why do game managers collar and tag animals in the wild?

Mule deer are carefully fitted with a GPS neck collar that will track its movements for the next three years. Various measurements are taken including weight, length and girth. Photo: WGFD

According to statewide migration coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department Jill Randall, biologists frequently collar wildlife to gather detailed location information from animals. This data has been improved in recent years with GPS technology which is now incorporated into most of the collars the Wyoming Game and Fish Department uses on big game animals like moose, elk, deer, and pronghorn.

This GPS data can be used to learn an incredible amount of information about wildlife including what habitats animals use, how they move across the landscape, when a mortality occurs and even when they give birth. With this information, Game and Fish can more precisely manage wildlife or improve the habitat they use the most.

Jill Randall

In many cases, this data can be downloaded in real time to the department’s computers, and is collected on a very fine scale such as hourly location points. Recently, this fine scale location data has been used by biologists to help understand how big game animals migrate between winter and summer habitats.

In fact, it was one of these collared mule deer that brought back data that stunned researchers last year when the longest migration ever recorded for a deer (242 miles) was documented in #255, a deer that travelled from the Red Desert in Wyoming to Island Park, Idaho.

Don’t worry about the animals. These collars are lightweight and do not encumber animals significantly. In most cases they are also designed detached and fall off wildlife after two or three years.

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