An automatic VHF transmitter monitoring system for wildlife research

Authors

  • A. Torbjörn Johansson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Irbis Tech, Kevingeringen 35, SE-182 50 Danderyd, Sweden
    • Irbis Tech, Kevingeringen 35, SE-182 50 Danderyd, Sweden.
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  • Örjan Johansson,

    1. Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-730 91 Riddarhyttan, Sweden
    2. Snow Leopard Trust, 4649 Sunnyside Avenue N, Suite 325, Seattle, WA 98103, USA
    3. Panthera, 8 W 40th Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10018, USA
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  • Tom McCarthy

    1. Panthera, 8 W 40th Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10018, USA
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  • Associate Editor: Breck.

Abstract

We describe an automated system for monitoring multiple very high frequency (VHF) transmitters, which are commonly employed in wildlife studies. The system consists of a microprocessor-controlled radio-frequency monitor equipped with advanced signal-processing capabilities that communicates with, and relays information to, a user interface unit at a different location. The system was designed for a capture-and-release snow leopard (Panthera uncia) study in Mongolia, where checking trap-site transmitters manually entailed climbing a hill with telemetry equipment several times each day and night. Here, it monitors the trap-site transmitters and actively produces an alarm when any of the traps have been triggered, or if the system has lost contact with any trap-transmitter. The automated system allowed us to constantly monitor transmitters from a research camp, and alerted us each time a trap was triggered. The system has been field-tested for 83 days from mid-September 2010 to mid-December 2010 in the Tost mountain range on the edge of Mongolia's Gobi desert. During this time, the system performed reliably, responding correctly to 45 manually generated alarms and 9 animal captures. The system considerably shortens the time the captured animals spend in traps, and also mitigates the need for manual trap-site transmitter monitoring, greatly reducing risk to the animal and the human effort involved. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.

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