Collecting GPS Data from Ma Barker the Raccoon

Our project is studying raccoons in south Florida. We are starting our study in Tree Tops Park. If you are interested in learning more about the raccoon project, visit our project page. For now, our biggest focus is on home ranges of raccoons, which we monitor with GPS collars.

Meet TTP-002, a.k.a. Ma Barker, with her brand new GPS collar around the neck! Meet TTP-002, a.k.a. Ma Barker, with her brand new GPS collar around the neck!

The GPS collars from Telemetry Solutions are programmed to collect and store GPS locations at a regular interval. Once a week, we use a base station to download these data. The collar also transmits a radio signal (VHF) that we can follow to get close enough to the collar with the base station. Using a radio antenna, our radio beeps when the antenna is pointing towards the collar. We use this to triangulate a location that is close enough to the raccoon for a signal to the base station.

Valeria, our UF/IFAS intern, trying to locate a collar with the radio antenna. Valeria, our UF/IFAS intern, trying to locate a collar with the radio antenna.

Normally, Ma Barker is an easy raccoon to find, often without even using the radio signal. So when we programmed her collar to drop off, it was with hopes of being able to easily find it. At the park, we followed the radio signal, and got a signal to the base station with the GPS data. The only problem was it seemed to be up in a tree! This was not a tree that we could climb, and we could not even see the collar from the ground!

Where is the GPS collar? Where is the GPS collar?

This was troubling, how would we get the collar from a tree? We left the park and came back a few days later, hoping that the collar would be knocked down by raccoons or wind. And fortunately, the radio signal led us straight to the collar on the ground! Now we have retrieved our first GPS collar, which can now be refurbished with a new battery, and put on the next raccoon!

GPS Collar CJ13, finally retrieved. GPS Collar CJ13, finally retrieved.

Caitlin

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