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New Utah Website Provides Real-Time Wildlife Migration Information

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Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
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Utahans now have access to real-time tracking of wildlife migration across the state via a new public website. 

“From our perspective, the more people that understand what wildlife do and what they need, the better it’ll be for wildlife for conserving their population. So we really wanted to make as much of this data available to folks as possible. And plus, people are just really interested in it,” said Daniel Olsen, a wildlife migration initiative coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

This project is currently tracking over 2,800 animals across the state, generating 26,000 data points every day. State biologists are not only monitoring big game animals like deer and elk, but other species like birds, bats, and fish.  

A short video from the new wildlife migration initiative website shows one razorback sucker traveling over 942 river miles across Utah and Colorado over a period of seven years. DWR said Utah is currently the only state that includes fish tracking in its migration initiative. 

“That was kinda some mind-blowing information,” Olsen said. “One fish in a period of seven years moved over 900 miles throughout that river system. And it pretty much moved the whole north/south extent of the state. It really, really opened our eyes to better understand just how big of area these animals are using.”

Olsen said data like this is incredibly helpful to biologists. Pinpointing migration routes can help identify where habitat improvements – like wildlife corridors – are needed. He said they’re learning a lot, and have encountered some surprises along the way. 

“If we get GPS tracking devices on a group of animals, they do things we don’t expect them to do,” Olsen said. “Almost always. There’s always things happening that we didn’t know were happening. One of the things that were able to detect with GPS tracking, is that some of our deer in the northeastern part of the state - up by Flaming Gorge Reservoir - when they move from their winter range to their summer range, they swim across the reservoir. These deer are swimming across like a mile of open water. So they move from Utah into Wyoming for the summer.”

The state’s new website includes short informational videos, interactive maps, and real-time tracking. Find it at wildlifemigration.utah.gov

Thanks to Molly Marcello from KZMU in Moab for covering this story. Visit kzmu.org for more of her coverage.