By Greg Bartlett
Arctic wolves are a mysterious bunch to say the least. Where do they go? How much area do they cover? Are they always alone? Or do they congregate into clans or families? Traditionally this research involved long cold hours of observation. Hard to find and hard to see, the data was scant and incomplete. Conflicting reports were published about exactly what happens to the wolves because it was impossible to know with any empirical certainty exactly what they do.
The help of GPS tracking can be used to find out exactly what happens to these creatures. Once a wolf or wolf family has been found, they can be anaesthetized and collars can be put on them with GPS tracking equipment attached to the collars. They hardly notice the collars and do not realize that they have had a close encounter of the human kind. They are released before they wake up and can be monitored remotely to find out what they get up to.
GPS uses the benefits of circling satellites to discover the locations of any item which has a GPS receiver and transmitter. There are roughly twenty of these satellites available and they circle the Earth at a set distance. They send out signals at synchronized times to receivers down below on the planet surface. Using this technology the position of anything can be determined by calculating the difference between the signals from four of these satellites. Four are used to provide an accurate reading and to cancel out any mistakes which could potentially throw the reading off by hundreds of miles.
With GPS tracking devices attached to their collars, the movements of the wolves have provided a fascinating insight into the lives of these arctic animals. It transpires that only one or two wolves need to be collared in this way because the wolves do travel in large packs. They seem very vicious, but they are family oriented at heart.
When a single wolf’s location has been identified, then the other members of the pack can be counted. Also, it has been found that the wolves do not always stick to their packs. Sometimes, one, two or more wolves can leave a pack at a time. GPS technology has improved the lives of the researchers tremendously and hopefully it can go some way towards preventing these wolves from becoming extinct.