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Missouri Uses Satellites to Track and Study Deer Populations

Missouri Department of Conservation

By using GPS and satellites, Missouri is currently monitoring deer populations to make decisions on deer herd management.

Thanks to GPS and satellite data, the Missouri Department of Conservation are learning as much as possible about deer survival, reproduction, and movement patterns. This is part of a five-year study to help them make better decisions about managing deer populations.

From January until March, researchers trapped and collared 90 whitetail deer for the study. The collars collect data on their movements in real time which is then downloaded to computers for biologists to study. This allows them to see how much time deer like to spend in certain areas, fields or wooded, at different times of the year, as well as how far deer will travel from their home area.

A typical adult deer will not roam any further than one mile from its home range. One doe has already impressed biologists and broken that rule by traveling more than eighty miles outside of its home range.

Deer movement isn’t the only thing they will be able to track from the special collars they outfitted on the deer. An internal transmitting device will also be able to tell them when a doe has given birth to a fawn. Their hope is to find those fawns and attach another special collar to them that expands as they grow, giving them even more insight into a deer’s life from birth.

With over half a million Missourians participating in whitetail deer hunting it is a huge boost to their economy, bringing in over $1 billion. Harvest rates on the deer are extremely valuable information for this type of study, so hunting will continue as normal even if they are shooting at one of the deer with a collar.

This study is being funded by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Funds, and is the first major study on deer populations since 1990s. Large-scale changes have occurred since then resulting in unknown impacts to the deer populations. They are focused on more rural areas at the moment including Nodaway, Gentry, Andrew, and Dekalb counties in the northwest; as well as Douglass, Howell, Texas, and Wright counties in the southern Missouri Ozarks.

If you would like to help with this project contact project leader Jon McRoberts at mcrobertsj@missouri.edu or 573-881-1978. They are looking to gain more access to local private land to trap more deer, locate fawns, and investigate mortalities.

 

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Missouri Uses Satellites to Track and Study Deer Populations