Friday, July 2, 2010

Management Techniques: Radio Telemetry

Restoring red wolves is a more involved process than simply opening a pen or kennel door and releasing wolves into the natural environment to find food, shelter, and a mate. Because red wolves are wide-ranging and secretive, field biologists with the Red Wolf Recovery Program need to employ various methods and techniques to monitor the wolf population. The primary method used to monitor red wolves is radio telemetry. Without radio telemetry it would be nearly impossible to monitor the location of a wolf, their movements and interactions with other wolves, their home range, territory, and the types of habitat they use, the location of their dens, and their ultimate fate.

But before we can monitor or track red wolves, we must first capture the wolf (see Management Techniques: Trapping and Traps) and fit it with a radio telemetry collar. Each collar emits a pulse signal at a unique radio frequency. When biologists wish to locate a particular wolf, they dial the unique frequency of that wolf’s collar on the telemetry receiver and listen for a signal through a headset. The signal becomes audible when the wolf is within range of the antenna, and stronger when the antenna is pointed in the direction of the wolf.

Radio-tracking wolves on the ground is done using a hand-held or a truck-mounted antenna. Wolves can also be radio-tracked from the air. Attaching radio telemetry antennae to the wings of an airplane allow field biologists to monitor the entire population of red wolves in the recovery area in a shorter period of time than when using ground telemetry alone.

Radio telemetry allows us to remotely monitor the free-ranging red wolves, collect important biological and ecological information on the population, and determine the overall success of the Red Wolf Recovery Program. -- Ryan