DNS Uses Net Guns and GPS Tracking Collars for Elk Research

21 Dec 2017

In Northern Michigan, elk are more than just animals; they are a symbol of the state’s strong history. However, due to decreased numbers in the elk population, the animals and the state’s history are both being threatened.

Thanks to GPS tracking devices and net guns, however, that may not be the case.

In order to better protect the elk, researchers and environmentalists need to have a better understanding of these animals, including their migration patterns. Researchers from the State Department of Natural Resources and Michigan State University will now be able to learn the valuable information regarding these animals and their migration.

With the aid of a helicopter and snowmobiles, researchers were able to put GPS tracking devices on 40 elk as part of an MSU graduate student’s research project. The researchers flew over the elk and used a net gun to temporarily capture the elk. Once the elk were captured, they were fit with GPS collars, which will help the researchers keep track of and study the animals in the Lower Peninsula.

According to DNR wildlife field operations manager, Brian Mastenbrook, one of the primary goals of the project is to assess the effects that recreation has in the core elk range. The GPS tracking devices will allow the researchers to keep tabs on the movements of the elk for the next three years.

Pigeon River County State forest, which is an area that includes 100,000 acres of public land in parts of Cheboygan and Otsego counties, is the area that comprises the core elk range. This area is commonly traversed by mountain bike riders and horseback riders. The data that the GPS tracking devices provide will allow researchers to determine if the movement of the elk is impacted by the activities of humans.

The team of highly qualified researchers who fitted the elk with the GPS tracking collars were able to equip a total of 20 males and 20 females in a period of two days. They were pleased by how quickly they were able to complete their mission of collaring the elk, and they were even more pleased that the animals were not harmed in the process.

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