Development of Predator Mitigation GPS Collars

                             Montana State University


Project Information: A diverse team of Montana State University researchers in collaboration with private industry consultants will develop a predator mitigation collar for US producers using one of several options.

The first option is to continue to try and modify commercially available collars for use in the US.

A second option is to modify or improve the capability of GPS technology currently working in the US transportation industry for our purpose.

The third option is to develop a system to work in remote areas that lack power and cell coverage using LoRaWAN. This would be a solar powered, custom built system using off the shelf technology adapted to our specifications. Two of these systems would potentially cover a township of Northern Plains terrain or thirty-six sections.

 Performance Narrative:
Deliverable #1:
During the summer of 2021, we deployed four of the Digital Matters Yabbie GPS tracker provided to MSU by Ranch Hacks. They were placed on either sheep and LGDís at the MSU Research Ranch at Norris and on two operations south of Great Falls on the Smith River.

    1) Pros: Yabbies do a great job of accurately tracking sheep or dogs, water resistant, light and specially designed for use with collars. Both laptop and smartphone interface is good. Geofencing alerts work. Built in accelerometer to measure speed. Uploads data when in cell coverage. Off the shelf technology thatís reasonably priced at under $200/collar/year.

    2) Cons: In field conditions only a two-month battery life. No real-time tracking and alerts only sound when the collars update twice per day. Only uploads data if the collar is in cell coverage at the right time.

    3) Comments: Texas A&M uses a similar product called Oyster. They do have a longer battery life, but are heavier and have issues with rubbing.

Ranch Hacks was supposed to deliver several Generation 2 Yabbies to me this summer. That did not occur due to the silicone chip shortage that is plaguing many industries around the world. Hopefully we will have some available for the summer of 2022. The main feature for these is supposed to be extended battery life in the same size package.

Deliverable #2:
I have purchased 50 tags and LoRa receiver from the Australian company MOOvement. These solar powered ear tags connect to the LoRa receiver by line of sight for up to seven miles. I have not deployed the system yet and we spent most of the summer waiting for them to arrive. I plan on attaching to ear tags to collars and using them on sheep and dogs at Red Bluff this winter.

Final Comments:
One of the reasons we wanted to explore current technology for predator mitigation is that the industry is making rapid changes. Several researchers are currently looking at integrating GPS collars and drone or using remote sensing drones. I am exploring another company out of Australia that has developed a solar powered, GPS ear tag that connects via satellite. It looks like a fairly affordable system, but have not spoken to anyone who has used them to see how well they work. These tags from a company called Ceres would combine the best of everything. Satellite  communication for the most remote area and solar powered for long life. They also have a built-in
accelerometer to measure animal speed for use in alerts. I will explore these tags more.

Activities Performed - GPS collars deployed and field tested.

Accomplishments - I have narrowed down which collar systems work under field conditions and am exploring new technology as it becomes available.

# Accomplishment/Activity Relevance to Objective
    1. Field tested GPS collars that connect via cell phone towers. Still need to upgrade to a generation 2 collar for better battery life. 50% competed.
    Deliverable #1

    2. Have ordered and received a LoRa GPS ear tag system that has the ability to operate without cell coverage. Will deploy this winter and in the spring and summer of 2022. 25% completed.
    Deliverable #2

    The main technology consultant, RanchHacks, has been unable to provide the longer battery life - Generation 2 Yabby GPS collar. Hopefully we will receive some in the spring of 2022. Exploring the new satellite based, solar powered ear tag called CERES. The main technology consultant, RanchHacks, has been unable to build a solar powered LoRa based system to work in remote areas.

    Purchased different system called MOOvement. This has meant that my expenditures in the budget have moved from contracted services to supplies.

Yabby GPS collars provide accurate tracking and geofencing alert. Manual review of the point summery data allows one to see if the sheep or dogs are acting erradicaly and when.

Upcoming Activities

Deploy and fully test MOOvement tags at Red Bluff. August 2022

Explore and possibly purchase CERES tags January 2022