Tracking land-based wildlife with GPS

Utah is home to abundant wildlife populations. However, for most species, we know little if anything about how these animals move within and between habitats that are vital to their survival. Knowing how animals move is key to maintaining healthy populations, because without that information, wildlife habitat can be unknowingly degraded or blocked by human development. This is especially true in rapidly-growing areas like Utah.

While historically it has been difficult to track wildlife movements, it can now be done with precision using satellite monitoring. To track an animal, it is captured and fitted with a small GPS device that records its location within a few feet and at multiple times throughout the day. Tracking information is used to describe an animal’s habitat use, migration corridors and barriers to movement. State and federal agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use this information to make important planning decisions that can impact wildlife.

The Wildlife Migration Initiative and its partners are now using GPS tracking to document the exact locations of thousands of animals throughout the state in near-real time. Below is an example of a 70-mile mule deer migration that was discovered using GPS tracking.