Movements of barren-ground caribou have been tracked by the Government of the Northwest Territories since 1996 using telemetry collars.
Caribou are collared in the spring and their movements are tracked throughout the year.
The collars are used to study seasonal range distribution, measure annual variations in rut and calving locations and determine spring and fall migration routes.
Caribou are captured using a net fired from a helicopter. Specialized helicopter capture crews are able to reduce stress to the caribou with quick pursuits and short handling times. Within 15 minutes of capture, the caribou is collared and released back into the herd. This procedure requires no drugs and places the animal in very little danger.
Collars deployed on barren-ground caribou in the Northwest Territories (NWT) are typically GPS/Argos units. Each collar is GPS-enabled and collects and stores a GPS location at pre-determined intervals throughout the day. The location data is stored on board the collar until it can be sent by satellite and emailed to the caribou biologist's computer. This transfer occurs daily or up to four days apart depending on the data needs at the given time of year.
Programmable drop off mechanisms are built into each collar. This means the collar will drop off without further capture and handling of the caribou being necessary. Once the collar is on the ground, it can be tracked and retrieved. Collars are often refurbished and used again in future studies.
Fixed-wing flights are conducted to determine the distribution of the caribou. Observations from these flights and reports from Renewable Resource Officers are used to find caribou and plan the deployment of the GPS collars.
Summary field reports on the collaring are filed.