Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Arthur R. Rodgers and Elise J. Gallerani Lawson1, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Centre for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research, Lakehead University Campus, 955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay, Ontario P7B 5E1 Canada
To verify use of the Lotek GPS tracking system for the Moose Guidelines Evaluation Project (MGEP) in Ontario, a pilot study was undertaken in March 1994. The world's first commercially available GPS units were deployed on 8 adult cow moose in northwestern Ontario. Deployed animal units were downloaded for the first time at the end of March 1994, and bi-monthly thereafter. More than 5,700 records were downloaded from the eight collars during 1994. Downloaded data indicate that the animal units reliably attempted GPS location estimates every 3 hr as expected. The mean observation rate (i.e., proportion of successful fix attempts) of deployed units was 0.65, but varied widely from 0.50 to 0.92. The proportion of successful 2-dimensional (2-D) position estimates (i.e., latitude and longitude only) exceeded the proportion of 3-dimensional (3-D) fixes (i.e., latitude, longitude and altitude) in all GPS units, giving an overall ratio of 3.4:1. At the same time, mean DOP values reported with 2-D fixes (3.290 ± 2.179) were slightly less than those recorded with 3-D fixes (3.728 ± 0.980). A plot of the animal data showed a pronounced pattern of habitat patch use by all moose. Each animal resided in a small area (<1 km2) for up to 2 weeks, then moved directly to a new patch up to 10 km away, and so on. The success of the pilot study led to full scale implementation of the MGEP project. In February 1995, 60 adult cow moose were captured and fitted with Lotek GPS collars: 35 in areas harvested according to Ontario's "Timber Management Guidelines for the Provision of Moose Habitat," and 25 in an area that has been progressively clearcut since 1978. Collars deployed in February 1995 were recovered, refurbished, and redeployed in late January and early February 1996, and again in 1997. To date, more than 300,000 records have been downloaded from the GPS collars deployed on moose in northwestern Ontario, yielding more location estimates than any previous study of moose in North America. Collars will continue to be downloaded every 3 months during the course of the 5-year project. The performance of the Lotek GPS tracking system during the pilot study and the first two years of deployment will be presented. This is the first major wildlife project in the world to use a GPS-based animal tracking system. Initial findings demonstrate that application of GPS technology to the project will provide more quality information on the interactions between timber management, habitat and moose than any previous study. Conventional telemetry based on VHF transmitters will continue to provide new knowledge about free-ranging animals in their natural environment, but GPS-based animal location systems will set a new standard for habitat/resource utilization studies of large animals over the next 5-10 years.
1 Present address: P. O. Box 891, Franconia, NH 03580 USA