Between July 30th and August 16th, I deployed 5 GPS satellite collars programmed to take GPS fixes every 5 hours. The collars where attached to strings between trees in forested areas or on fiberglass stakes in open areas. The study area is the elk release site in the Virginia Elk Restoration Zone. The purpose was to determine the fix rates and precision of the fixes for varying elevations, slopes, aspects, cover types, canopy closures, and distances from the ground. I moved the collars to different locations every 4 to 5 days over the three week period.
In this steep mountainous Appalachian terrain, we expect varying fix rates and precision estimates. We expect lower fix rates and less precision at lower elevations in thick canopy cover and higher fix rates and more precision on high flat open areas. However, the effects of aspect, canopy type, and distance from ground are unknown.
In general, the collars were not disturbed by humans or animals. The one exception is when a yearly bull elk decided we wanted to investigate further. He eventually pulled the collar and stake out of the ground. Elk are vary curious animals and ofter mess with trail cameras.
We conducted this small study to help determine the confidence we can place in our resource selection models which are based upon the GPS satellite collar data for the 26 collared elk in Virginia as well as GIS data.
Photos (except trail cam) courtesy of Allen Boynton. Thanks Allen.