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Cost Comparisons of Large Animal Telemetry Systems

Arthur R. Rodgers, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Centre for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research, Lakehead University Campus, 955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay, Ontario P7B 5E1 Canada

Telemetry is an expensive tool in terms of both time and money. There is little doubt that a GPS system can provide greater quality, as well as a larger number of animal locations, than either Argos satellite or conventional telemetry. What is not clear, is whether or not the high costs of a GPS system would be offset by a reduction in aircraft overheads and staffing requirements of conventional telemetry, or how these costs compare to the Argos satellite system. To that end, a preliminary cost comparison of implementing a GPS system versus satellite telemetry versus a conventional system was undertaken. Consideration was first given to the basic costs of each telemetry system, then to the costs of starting-up a telemetry program using each system, and finally the extended costs over a five-year period. The general conclusion is that conventional telemetry would be more expensive than either satellite telemetry or a GPS-based system because of the high costs of data acquisition using aircraft. Compared with conventional telemetry, Telonics Argos satellite collars (Mesa, Arizona) could reduce costs by 36% over a five-year period. In spite of the higher start-up costs, Lotek GPS collars (Newmarket, Ontario) provide even greater savings by reducing costs as much as 54% over conventional telemetry and 29% compared with Telonics Argos satellite collars over a five-year period. A telemetry program based on Lotek GPS collars would be the least expensive over a five-year period because of reduced costs for redeployment and data acquisition. As more and more telemetry manufacturers become involved with the development of GPS-based systems, there will be a further reduction in costs associated with telemetry programs using this new technology.

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