DWR Launches Real-Time Wildlife Tracking Website

8 Jul 2020

Utah is tracking wildlife in real-time, which isn’t something many states are doing as of yet. Some of the captured data will be made available to the public through a new website launched Tuesday.

The Wildlife Migration Initiative program was started in 2017 by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to better track and study the different state wildlife and fish species’s migration patterns. Most of the data collected comes from GPS tracking devices the animals wear in forms of collars or from fish tagged with implanted transmitters. Fish tracking, at the moment, is only being conducted by Utah in the migration initiative.

Since the program’s beginning, DWR biologists have already been tagging thousands of different animals from various wildlife species, which include:

  • Bighorn sheep
  • Black bears
  • Mountain goats
  • Moose
  • Mule deer
  • Geese
  • Elk
  • Cougars
  • Pronghorns
  • Fish and amphibians
  • American White Pelicans

Some birds also have GPS tracking devices, while others have received metal bands. This allows hunters and other people to report on the website where they located the found or harvested birds.

Certain aquatic species are being tracked, such as:

  • Colorado pikeminnow
  • Razorback sucker
  • Bluehead sucker
  • Flannelmouth sucker
  • Cutthroat trout
  • June sucker
  • Boreal toads

For some of Utah’s endangered fish species, the data on movement gathered from the implanted transmitters have been a valuable source of information for the recently proposed Endangered Species list downlistings by the Wildlife Service and U.S. Fish.

State-of-the-art technology is used by the Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative for identifying:

  • Wildlife stopover sites
  • Movement and migration patterns
  • Priority areas that could help reconnect fragmented ranges of habitation
  • Areas that allow different wildlife species to move safely from one large habitation area to another

Their mission is to preserve, document and enhance wildlife species movement throughout Utah using innovative tracking and data management technology, compelling outreach and collaborative partnerships.

This tracking data provides benefits to wildlife in various ways since it enables biologists to:

  • See where the wildlife spends large time periods feeding and making habitat improvements in these locations
  • Identify migration routes and make sure wildlife crossings are strategically constructed
  • Identify how wildlife uses both private and public land, which leads to more comprehensive, better wildlife management on any land

Law enforcement can also use GPS tracking data to locate and prosecute poachers successfully.

Presently, over 2,800 animals across Utah are being tracked by DWR biologists and its partners and this wildlife generates around 26,000 data points daily. Since the tracking started, there have been 14 million location data points in total. The biologists watch the GPS data, see where the animals die and then go and collect the collars so they can reuse them on other animals. They like to reuse the collars since they each cost around $1,100.

The DWR asks that hunters don’t harvest collared animals since it’s expensive to capture the animals to put collars on them. If hunters do happen to harvest collared animals, they should do their best to not destroy or cut the collars. When they report wildlife, DWR employees can collect the collars so they can reuse them.

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