In the 1960’s the world of wildlife management gained a tool that transformed wildlife research and management – radio telemetry. It allowed biologists to track animals from the ground or air, without having to see the animal or the animal know it was being observed.
In Idaho, the first radio collars were used in the 1970’s on an elk study in the Clearwater River country. That study provided baseline data on elk use of the Clearwater River prior to the Dworshak Dam being built.
The first transmitters and receivers were homemade devices developed by tinkering biologists in the 1960s. They were limited to short distance telemetry and required bulky, short-lived batteries. Only the largest animals, like elk, would carry the transmitters. Even though the early devices were bulky and weren’t very reliable, they quickly gained popularity and by the 1970s radio tracking telemetry was an essential wildlife management tool.
Today, telemetry transmitters are small enough to be inserted in fish and carried by sage grouse chicks. The signals from the transmitters now use satellite technology that allows locations to be delivered in real time to biologists’ computers.
Telemetry has truly transitioned wildlife research and management into an entirely new era.
One of the most asked questions by sportsmen and women is: What was the harvest in my area? To answer this question, Idaho Fish and Game collects data, lots of data.
Some of the most important data used to answer this question is harvest information reported by hunters and anglers. It’s equally important to gather data on the living populations of these species. Both of these sets of data are the foundation for managing wildlife populations and setting hunting and fishing seasons. For more on the history of harvest reports see: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/75th/.