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April 11, 2008

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Are Radio-Collared Game Animals Targeted?

Under a proposal being considered by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, hunters would be barred from using telemetry equipment to hunt and track down big game animals that have been fitted with radio collars for study by state and federal game agencies.

What?? Is this a cause for concern? If so, it’s news to this Newshound.


Dave Ware, game division manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife admits there are no documented cases of such incidents in Washington, but he says he’s heard anecdotal evidence elsewhere of situations where “there sometimes are an unexplained number of (collared) animals harvested in a year.”

Talk about a term du jour. “Anecdotal evidence,” is today what “thinking outside the box,” used to be a few years back.

Anyhow, Ware and others with the Washington agency believe that some unscrupulous (and telemetry-savvy) hunters could be using radio equipment to hone-in on collared deer, elk, cougar, bear, moose, mountain goat and bighorn sheep, and they’d like the Commission to pass regulations specifically prohibiting it.

If the proposal passes, Washington would be the first state in the country with such a provision. It would not affect radio-controlled hunting dog collars or two-way radio use.

In my limited experience with game biologists who use radio-tracking technology to study the behavior and range of certain game animals, I’ve found it is often utilized through a combination of aerial and ground-based tracking. In addition, by no means does it regularly involve desirable (trophy) animals and may often target females of the species for fertility-testing purposes.

And how would a novice tracker be able to differentiate between a signal from a collar worn by a bull elk or a bobcat?

That’s why it’s hard for me to fathom why it could be perceived as a potential problem for game agencies.

“The potential is as receivers become more sophisticated, it could become more of an issue as it becomes available to more people,” Ware told the Tri-City Herald. “We just want to be ahead of it before it becomes an issue.”

Oh, it’s kind of like thinking outside the box, huh?

I’d like to know what my Newshound regulars think about this one. I’d especially like to hear from a game biologist or someone with experience studying game using tracking collars.


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After last years Elk season when I was almost run over by 30 head of Elk being chased by 6 "hunters" on atvs herding them to their buddies in a walk in only hunting area, my ideal would be stop the problem before it starts. If the technology isn't being abused yet, it will be soon. Just look at the attitude of many people who seem to believe that if I buy it, I can use it.

don m

good point buckdun,crooks dont care so much about what they take,as long as they can poach it and make a buck.


thanks for the info. J.R.


I don't think I'm entirely naive, but I have to say the idea that anyone would do that hadn't occurred to me. That's a step below setting pit-traps in your yard.

Brian M

The only conflict I could see would be when managers are introducing or reintroducing something regionally unpopular like a cougar, wolves or something that dines on game animals (Fishers in Michigan's UP come to mind). I could see how some misguided individuals might try to rid the woods of the "new" animals.