US Department of Agriculture, USDA Forest Service, Technology and Development Program Banner with Logos.
Images from various aspects of the T&D Program.
HomeAbout T&DT&D PubsT&D NewsProgram AreasHelpContact Us
Search T&D
  Search all USDA
Program Areas
Left Nav Bottom
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


Performance of PTTs

The 22g Solar Argos/GPS PTT (manufactured by Microwave Telemetry, Inc.) performed as advertised. PTTs continuously (daily) recorded data at our prescribed duty cycle (i.e., every other hour from 0400 to 2200) and stored data for later transmission to the Argo Satellite every third day. The devices remained operational for as long the device's photovoltaic cells could recharge the batteries. It is noteworthy that one device has remained attached to the same bird for nearly 2 years (over 530 days of October 1, 2012) with the device still functioning normally.

No devices malfunctioned during the deployment. All PTT devices that eventually became detached from birds were eventually recovered within 20–30 feet of their last reported location.

In the deployment, we were able to demonstrate that—as long as the devices remained attached and/or the animal is alive and moving (so that photovoltaic cells can recharge the device's battery)— animal movement data can be obtained over a very long period.

Cost-effectiveness of Satellite/GPS telemetry technology

Whether (or not) satellite/GPS telemetry technology is cost effective depends largely on whether or not the user has a need to obtain large amounts of fine-scaled location (movement) data of an animal. The cost of PTTs is expensive at about $4,000 each, and the monthly subscription to use the Argos Satellite System can be as much as $42 to $50 a month per PTT. (While we did not lose any devices during our deployment, potential users of this technology should assume that the device is at risk of not being recovered once the animal is released.)

If the user needs large amounts of fine-scale location (movement) data of wildlife, no other telemetry method is practical. Obviously, satellite/ GPS telemetry technology provides the user with the ability to be able to download data from the transmitter (through the Argos Satellite System) via the Internet; this saves many person-days of field time that would be necessary to receive transmissions from a traditional VHF device. Also, this technology allows users to acquire multiple, daily locations that is not practical (or realistically possible) using VHF telemetry. The advantage of this telemetry over traditional GPS telemetry is that the user can retrieve data via satellite transmission and not incur costs necessary to physically recapture the animal to extract location data.


SDTDC partnered with the Cimarron National Grassland to demonstrate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of using satellite/GPS tracking devices (platform transmitter terminals) for continuous, longterm monitoring of fine-scale movements of Lesser Prairie-Chickens during 2011–2012.

We attached lightweight PTTs to birds and were able to acquire finescale bird movement data successfully throughout the 2-year period of the demonstration. We used the Argos Satellite Data Collections System to remotely retrieve data from the PTTs via the Internet.

This technology is best suited for investigators with a need to remotely track fine-scale wildlife movements over very long periods. Given that need, this technology is probably the only practical, cost-effective means of collecting that kind of data.