A number of Pennsylvania's white-tailed deer have started texting – yes without thumbs or even pointy hoofs. As part of the deer forest study being conducted by the Game Commission and partners, several deer in each study area are wearing GPS radio collars that can be controlled via text messages.
Short text messages are sent from the collar to researchers, and vice versa. They instantly record the location of collared deer and allow researchers to learn more about deer movements and behavior – particularly during hunting season.
The Game Commission has placed collars on thousands of deer over the years. Researchers have learned, for instance, that 70% of yearling bucks will disperse miles from where they were born. That has helped better understand harvest rates of antlered and antlerless deer during the hunting seasons.
More bells and whistles
The new texting collars provide innovative and exciting opportunities, says Christopher Rosenberry, who supervises the Game Commission's deer and elk section. The collars monitor deer behavior across large areas at all times of the day. Collecting that much location data wouldn't be possible with regular radio collars, he adds.
"With these new GPS collars, we can track a deer's movements every 20 minutes," he explains. "There just wouldn't be enough time, money or equipment to do that using technicians and regular radio collars."
Hunter help requested
Because the study looks at deer in relation to hunting, it can't be completed without cooperation from hunters. The study areas are within Bald Eagle State Forest in Centre, Union and Snyder counties; Rothrock State Forest in Centre, Mifflin and Huntingdon counties; and Susquehannock State Forest in Potter County. They're all are marked with signs at parking lots and along roads.
And hunters in those study areas are asked to register and report their experiences to the Game Commission. Hunters can register by visiting the white-tailed deer page at the Game Commission's website, then clicking on the "Deer-Forest Study" link in the "Research and Surveys" category.
After deer season concludes, hunters will be mailed a survey to record their hunting success and experiences. Individual surveys will remain confidential. Only summary information will be provided to the public.
"Without hunters registering and telling us about their hunting experiences, we won't be able to completely assess deer-hunter interactions," says Rosenberry. The study will assess how deer respond to hunting pressure and how that behavior affects hunter experiences and opinions. It'll also help better assess deer impact on forest regeneration.
So what's next for Bambi, twittering?