Arizona Game and FIsh Department - Managing Today for Wildlife Tomorrow: Arizona Game and Fish Department

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Fig 1 Our role as researchers and managers of Arizona’s wildlife often calls for us to capture and mark animals for various purposes.  From temporary rodent hair-dyes to tiny fish implants to large bison collars, we have a variety of methods for tracking animals. 

Just about every ungulate and carnivore that we handle gets an ear-tag – a colorful piece of jewelry with a number written in large type to make identification through binoculars possible.  In addition to ear-tags, a large number of our tracking projects involve radio transmitters.

Although we can communicate with some transmitters via satellites, many of our studies rely on recovery of Global Positioning System (GPS) transmitters, usually in the form of a collar, to retrieve data stored on board.  Many of the Fig 2 collars we use are designed to drop off their hosts after a certain amount of time to eliminate the added stress, time, and cost of recapture.  Ear-tags remain on after the collars fall off, allowing identification if animals are encountered again.  We collect the collars as soon as possible after they drop, but occasionally animals wander too far from study areas or units fail and we are unable to locate them after dropping.

So, if you’re out hiking, driving, or hunting and you find a collar or some other contraption that you think might be used to track wildlife movements, please give us a call or drop it by the nearest regional office.  If you see a marked animal or find an ear-tag, try to note the following, which  might be of interest to the biologist overseeing the project: species, ear-tag color, number, and which ear (left or right); a GPS or map location; and any animal remains or predator sign in the immediate vicinity. 

If you happen to harvest an animal wearing a collar, please contact us at your earliest convenience so we can arrange the best way to get the collar to the right folks.  Most projects Fig 3are time-sensitive; if redeployment is an option, the sooner we get the collar, the better.  If you harvest an animal with an ear tag, please give us a call as the location of the animal can provide us with useful information for our various study objectives.  In either case, we may be able to provide you with some background information on the animal, such as where and when it was captured.

Occasionally, we use immobilizing drugs to capture animals.  Some of these drugs can remain in an animal’s system for extended periods.  We avoid using these drugs in areaswith upcoming or current hunts whenever possible.  On the few occasions that drugs may remain in an animal’s system that is eligible for a hunt, we affix special red ear-tags instructing hunters to contact AGFD before consuming any meat from that animal. 

Please report all recovered collars and ear-tags by contacting Scott Sprague or Johnathan O’Dell.  Sightings with accurate ear-tag numbers and GPS locations can be also be reported to Scott or John.


For more information contact:
Scott Sprague, Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85023
Phone: (623) 236-7252           E-mail:

Johnathan O’Dell, Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85023
Phone: (623) 236-7357           E-mail:


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