Monitoring and tracking game populations can be a daunting task, and there are several different reasons for this. Observations are often difficult because of the location of animals, for instance in dense brush, difficult swampland, or rugged, mountainous terrain. Additionally, some animals are highly secretive in nature and their movements are not readily observable. The most elusive animals are nocturnal, which complicates observation by limiting visibility.
Still, monitoring and tracking must be undertaken, because it does provide numerous benefits to conservationists, game management personnel, and hunters in terms of understanding the population of any given species in a specific location. With that in mind, here are some of the most historically reliable and useful methods of tracking game animals.
Direct Observation by Individuals
Quite often the information obtained by outdoorsmen, naturalists, and hunters can be pooled and shared, providing a meaningful accumulation of data from which worthwhile conclusions might be drawn. This can be either during the day or the nighttime, although obviously nighttime observations are more difficult, as stated in a University of Nebraska at Lincoln article. There are of course other drawbacks to the direct observation method, for instance difficulty of terrain, privacy of landowners, and the sheer time and effort involved in acquiring worthwhile data.
This method of tracking does not require the physical presence of an observer to do the monitoring, since data is obtained almost exclusively by checking for signs that animals have left behind. According to Survival Basics 101, signs of animal presence can be in the form of tracks visible in soft earth, droppings, buck rubs, browsed vegetation, and sometimes even levels of food removal—in cases where food stations have been supplied during harsh winters. Indirect observation can be an accurate indicator of wildlife presence; often just as accurate as actual observation of the animals in the area, although obviously at some point someone must interpret and analyze those signs.
According to Good Game Hunting, this method relies on having the ability to capture and tag animals in a given location, with transmitters that relay data on the animal’s movements back to the tracker. One of the big advantages to this strategy is that the tracker’s presence is not required (at least, after the initial capture), and it doesn’t matter how difficult the terrain is during the animal’s normal movements. Because the animals are fitted with some kind of device transmitting a GPS signal, as noted by Good Nature, they can be tracked by satellite. That information is then downloaded to a tracking center. This method is much easier than either of the two observational techniques, but has the disadvantage of requiring an initial capture, sedation, and release.
Benefits of Monitoring and Tracking
With the information provided by monitoring game populations, much better management of those populations becomes possible. When populations grow too large to be supported by a local environment, game management has to step in to relieve the pressure on the environment. For hunters, knowing the locations where deer populations require harvesting is very useful information. With a larger than normal game population struggling in a certain area, hunters are providing a service to the overall population by sitting in their tree stand and harvesting animals that need to be culled from the population.