GPS Tracking Study Being Done in the Smoky Mountains

18 Aug 2016

The future of the bear cubs that have been injured or orphaned is looking brighter, thanks to GPS tracking technology.

Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR,) an East Tennessee nonprofit that has concentrated their efforts on returning the cubs to the wild, has been outfitting bears with GPS tracking collars. The collars provide real time tracking data, keeping track of the bears in rehabilitates. Though the technology is not cheap, it is expected to provide valuable information on the bears, including their movements, their eating habits and their mortality rates, said Dana Dodd, the president of ABRs board of directors.

Dodd noted that if so much time and energy is being spent to care for the bears and get them back into their natural habitat, it only makes sense to know if the efforts have been successful. If changes or adjustments to the rehabilitation process need to be made, real data will allow them to make those changes.

Since 1996, ABR has taken in, rehabilitated and released 257 black bear cubs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cherokee National Forest and counties neighboring the parks.

In the past year, ABR has placed 40 GPS tracking devices on bear cups. The tracking devices communicate with satellite every three hours to update the precise movements of the bears. Every 12 hours, the tracking data is stored in the collars and is transmitted to a laptop computer.

The GPS collars contain activity sensors that are able to detect if a bear has passed away or gone into hibernation. They are also outfitted with traditional VHF radio telemetry, which provides a more precise fix on the location of the bears.

Coy Blair, a wildlife graduate student at the University of Tennessee, is leading the GPS tracking study of the bears. He is also a curator for the ABR. Blair said that the group takes data from the GPS technology and overlays that data with different map layers.

This allows the group to get a better idea of where the bears are spending the bulk of their time – either in a forest or in an urban location. This information will allow the group to learn more about the size of the home range of the bears. This will also give them a better understanding of the survival rates of the bears.

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GIS and Grizzly Bear GPS Tracking – GIS BLOG

March 9th, 2017 at 12:15 pm

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