How does Utah track wildlife?

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DWR biologists are recommending a slight increase in the number of general season buck deer permits available for hunts in Utah this fall.

(ABC4) – Utah is home to thousand of animals, but how does the state keep track of them all?

On February 12, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources shares how they keep track of the migration and movements of thousands of animals across the state.

According to DWR, animals are actually tracked through GPS collars. Since the start of the Wildlife Migration Initiative program in 2017, DWR biologists have tagged thousands of individual animals from a variety of wildlife species, including black bears, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, mountain goats, mule deer, pronghorns, and cougars.

“When an animal dies, its collar emits a mortality signal that lets biologists know it is no longer alive,” shares DWR. “The biologists then hike to the place where the animal died to try to determine a cause of death and retrieve the collar.”

According to DWR, the tracking data benefits wildlife in several ways because biologists can:

  • Identify where the animals spend large portions of time feeding and make habitat improvements in those areas.
  • Locate migration routes and ensure that wildlife crossings are constructed strategically (i.e. where those routes cross highways, rivers, etc.)
  • See how wildlife uses both public and private land, which leads to better, more comprehensive wildlife management on all lands.
  • Increase natural river connectivity by identifying barriers to fish movement (i.e. culverts, bridges, waterfalls, etc.)
  • Assist conservation officers in their battle against poaching.

In 2020, DWR biologists and their partners are tracking more than 2,800 animals across Utah, and those animals generate about 26,000 data points each day. There have been a total of 14 million location data points since the tracking began.

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“Using GPS tracking data, our law enforcement officers were actually able to successfully locate and prosecute a poacher,” DWR Migration Initiative Coordinator Daniel Olson says. “We have also learned other interesting things. For example, there are deer that swim almost a mile across Flaming Gorge Reservoir as part of their annual migration. A lot of the information we gather from this tracking initiative is invaluable in helping us better manage wildlife.”

The public can find more information and tracking data on the Wildlife Migration Initiative website. The website will continue to be updated with additional data.

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