What is this collar for and how does it work?

If you frequent Snapshot Wisconsin, you may have noticed photos of wildlife with funny looking collars around their necks.  Maybe you’ve wondered, “What is this collar for and how does it work?”

Tracking collars are one of the most common and important tools for monitoring wildlife. Collars track animal movements and allow biologists and managers to determine the home range sizes of different species, understand habitat preferences, and even understand behaviors like migration or dispersal (movement of young away from the area where they were born). In a recent study in Wisconsin, researchers used tracking collars and other tools to understand causes of death in deer. You can read more about that study here.

There are two main types of collars: VHF and GPS.  VHF stands for “very high frequency”. These collars were first used in the 1960’s and work by emitting a radio signal.  Animal locations must be manually identified by researchers using a receiver and antenna.


C. Anhalt-Depies with receiver and antenna used in VHF telemetry

GPS stands for “global positioning system”, and a GPS collar works in much the same way as a smartphone GPS. GPS collars communicate with satellites and allow researchers to pinpoint exact locations of animals without the manual use of antennas. Researchers also get location data more frequently than is possible with VHF collars. However, GPS collars tend to be larger, more expensive, and shorter lived than VHF collars.

When you spot a collar on Snapshot Wisconsin, tell us using the hashtag #collar!

About Christine Anhalt-Depies

Research Scientist at Wisconsin DNR

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