Evaluation of the performance and accuracy of Global Positioning System bug transmitters deployed on a small mammal
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- Glasby, L. & Yarnell, R.W. Eur J Wildl Res (2013) 59: 915. doi:10.1007/s10344-013-0770-3
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Recent technological advances in Global Positioning System (GPS) telemetry have allowed the production of lightweight devices suitable for use on small mammals. We evaluated the use of GPS bugs on the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in a series of static and field tests. Static tests were conducted in five different rural habitats, affording different degrees of obstruction to satellites. GPS bug performance was good in all habitats (fix success rate (FSR): median ≥ 66.8 %; location error (LE): mean ≤ 13.5 m), except woodland (FSR = 37.7 %; LE = 15.6 m), with performance highest in the open pasture habitat (FSR = 100 %; LE = 6.4 m). Field tests revealed mean FSR was high (84.6 %), with the use of nesting habitats, the probable cause of most failed fixes. Despite being more expensive, GPS bugs require less survey effort and substantially lower labour costs with unlimited longevity permitting re-use in multiple seasons. We recommend the use of GPS bugs in the spatial ecological study of any small mammal in a rural environment, providing accurate and unbiased movement data. Further performance testing is recommended before deployment on species inhabiting forested habitats where reduced FSR and high LE support the alternative use of very high frequency tracking.