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T&D > Programs Areas >Inventory & Monitoring >Demonstration of Satellite/GPS Telemetry for Monitoring Fine-Scale Movements of Lesser Prairie-Chickens Program Areas
Demonstration of Satellite/GPS Telemetry for Monitoring Fine-Scale Movements of Lesser Prairie-Chickens

Rey Farve, Project Leader


This project is the result of a proposal submitted by Andy Chappell of the Cimarron National Grasslands. The proposal asked the Technology and Development Program to demonstrate how satellite telemetry might be used to track the movements of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (Tympamuchus pallidicinctus) throughout its lifecycle on a near 24- hour basis.

The core team members for this project were: Andy Chappell (Cimarron National Grasslands), Kraig Schultz (Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks); Brian Bedrosian (Craighead Beringia South); and Rey Farve (San Dimas Technology and Development Center [SDTDC]).


The Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LPC) is considered a "candidate" for listing as a threatened or endangered species by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. The LPC is listed as a sensitive species by the Rocky Mountain Region (R2) of the Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and as a management indicator species on the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands.

Photo of a male Lesser Prairie-chicken standing in brush and grass.Graphic of the United States with highlighted areas of the Lesser Prairie-chickens' range.
Figure 1 - Lesser Prairie-chicken (male) and its current (occupied) range (from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Wildlife Habitat Council 1999).

LPC inhabit the sand-sagebrush-grassland communities of the Southern Great Plains of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas. Movements of the LPC during the breeding season are poorly understood for the national grasslands. The Cimarron National Grassland (CNG) felt that information on both hen and cock movements during breeding and nesting season would greatly aid their conservation efforts for this species.

(Note: Detailed information on the life history of LPCs can be obtained from Robb and Schroeder 2005.) INTRODUCTION A. Background

Photo of the Cimarron National Grassland U.S. Forest Service sign.
Photo of two people working in the grasslands.
Figure 2 - Cimarron National Grassland.

Need and Objective

More detailed information on the continuous movement (throughout the year) of LPCs could help grassland mangers make more informed decisions that might lessen the impacts of the grazing program, oil and gas program, and fire and fuels projects on the LPC.

Radio-tracking telemetry technology is one of the primary tools available to biologists for tracking wildlife movements to get a better understanding of wildlife distribution and habitat use. This technology has been in use for decades, but it has recently advanced (and miniaturized) such that it is possible to track and store data on continuous movements of a wide variety of wildlife at a fine scale (using global positioning system [GPS] satellites) and have that data transmitted via satellites for download from any location. This combination of using satellites to transmit GPS data is known as "satellite/GPS tracking telemetry." (See a more detailed discussion of the various forms of Wildlife Radio Tracking Telemetry in section II.)

The Inventory and Monitoring Program (of the Technology and Development Program) felt that a demonstration of satellite/GPS telemetry would provide Forest Service units with an understanding of what the capabilities (and limitations) of the technology are and serve as a demonstration of the potential efficiency and cost effectiveness of the technology for continuous, fine-scale monitoring of wildlife movements, especially gallinaceous birds. (Gallinaceous birds are arboreal or terrestrial animals; many prefer not to fly, but instead walk and run for locomotion.) Additionally, the data generated from such a demonstration would provide the national grasslands with additional data on LPC movement that could assist in further conservation efforts of the LPC.

As such, the objective of this study was to demonstrate how satellite/ GPS telemetry could be used as an efficient and cost-effective tool for monitoring continuous, fine-scale animal movements.