November 8, 1999
Nehemiah K. Rotich
Kenya Wildlife Service
Dear Dr. Rotich:
As promised during our meeting on November 2, 1999, accompanying are case accounts and other information pertaining to the use of telemetry and radio collaring by poachers to locate prey.
There are two basic techniques involved, both of which have been commonly used since circa 1984, when telemetry-assisted poaching first came to my attention.
The most common method is the use of radio-collared dogs to locate prey. The poachers then follow the radio signal from the dogs in order to find and shoot the target animal. This method of poaching is commonly used in the U.S. and Canada to kill bears, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, and sometimes large hooved animals such as moose and elk.
The same equipment can be used by people with sufficient skill to locate animals who have been radio-collared by researchers. If the target animal is radio-collared, there is no need to use dogs.
You will note in the accompanying articles that wildlife authorities typically deny that radio-collaring the animals has anything to do with the animals being killed. The weight of evidence refutes the wildlife management position: animals wearing radio collars are killed at a markedly higher rate than animals not radio collared. In addition, you will note that in several of the cases, notably those brought to light by Gordon Haber in Alaska and by myself in Oregon, the wildlife authorities appear to have a conflict of interest. In Alaska, as Haber pointed out, wildlife authorities were actually involved in hunting radio-collared animals; in Oregon, the wildlife authorities were manipulating evidence in an effort to open the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge to recreational coyote hunting.
The current cost of a basic telemetry outfit used to track hunting dogs is about $250 U.S., or 17,500 Kenya shillings. Such equipment can be purchased in the U.S. without any special permit, and can be exported at will.
Appreciating your interest and concern,
Merritt Clifton, editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Here is some further background on radio-collaring as applied to predator/prey management studies:
November 17, 1998
Pronghorn Management Plan
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Lakeview, OR 97630
Friends of Animals, fax 203-656-0267
Predator Defense Institute, Predefense@aol.com
To Whom It May Concern:
We have just received Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge Pronghorn Update #4, which asserts that coyotes killed 23 of 27 pronghorn fawns who were radio-collared in May 1998, and is presented in support of ongoing Hart Mountain management efforts to find a pretext for killing coyotes a practice which seems to be heavily favored by the cattle and sheep ranchers who lease the surrounding environs, and who leased much of the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge itself until evicted by court order in 1991.
We are familiar with the techniques and inevitable outcome of studies which involve radio-collaring fawns whether of pronghorns at Hart Mountain, Columbia white-tailed deer at the Julia Hansen Butler National Wildlife Refuge, or of any other hooved ruminants at any other location where there are either coyotes or jackals, coyotes closest kin.
Such studies are not actually “research”; they are a self-fulfilling prophecy. They begin with humans, usually several of them at a time, trampling an easily followed trail through the tall grass cover. The trail leads directly to the young victims, who have typically been spotted from the air or from some other high vantage point such as a fire watch tower, not accessible to coyotes or jackals.
That s bad enough, and enough by itself to practically guarantee that all of the previously hidden fawns will be found and killed by predators. But there is more. The young animals are frightened. They may or may not make sounds, betraying their location. They often defecate. They throw off all the usual scents of fear and anxiety common to their species and the researchers pick these scents up on their hands, their gloves, their boots, their shirts and pants, and on their other equipment.
Then back they come, along the same trail they created to reach the fawns in the first place, not only making the trail wider and more obvious, but also shedding the scents of a frightened and vulnerable young animal all along the way.
A blind old lap poodle could follow such a path to a fawn; it should be no surprise that coyotes or jackals do.
Radio-collaring has established an impressive record in enabling researchers to monitor the behavior of birds and adult mammalian predators, including coyotes, wolves, pumas, and both black bears and grizzly bears. These species are not generally subject to predation themselves, especially not by opportunistic trail-following animals like coyotes. But it should be noted that they are subject to human predation, and biologists have known for at least 10 years that radio-collaring an animal multiplies manifold the likelihood that the animal will be poached.
Radio-collaring is not an appropriate study tool for monitoring the activity of highly vulnerable prey species. The prey animal who is radio-collared will be killed, inevitably, because even if predators are not able to detect the radio signal––a belief of biologists which is by no means certain––the mere act of doing the radio-collaring places the collared animal at greater risk.
Increasing the risk to fawns may serve the interests of those who believe their predators should be eradicated. Yet it does not serve the interests of either the individual fawns or their species. As a practice, radio-collaring prey species especially young animals is inhumane, anti-ecological, and yields extremely untrustworthy data. It should be abolished. Studies based on data collected by radio-collaring young prey species should be discarded and disregarded, since they have no more bearing on discovering the truth of the subjects they purport to investigate than did the trials by “odd bodkin” of alleged witches during the Middle Ages.
Appreciating your attention,
Merritt Clifton, editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE.