When electrical engineers meet Bambi

When electrical engineers meet Bambi

The Colorado Department of Wildlife had a great idea: automate deer tagging and ditch the helicopters.

Finding a way to automate the process—rather than drop-netting fawns from helicopters and collaring them manually—would spare the deer significant trauma, reduce personnel field time, and save a lot of money.

Better for the deer, better for the budget.

But the challenge was complex: creating a device to lure, safely contain and identify non-collared first-year fawns, then collar and release them. The cage/device also needed to withstand snow, rain, wind and sustained temperatures as low as -25˚, plus the gnawing mice, pesky raccoons and terrifically powerful bears in the Colorado mountains. And, of course, it needed to be reliable, cost effective, lightweight and easy to maintain.

Let the engineering fun begin!

The Colorado Department of Wildlife (CDOW) wanted an engineering partner to help expedite the project, and DGCD was ready to get out of the office and into the field.

The DGCD team had designed plenty of handheld consumer devices, computers, and even robust medical and aerospace electronics. But the fawn selection criteria, automation, environmental extremes, marauding critters, even the surprisingly destructive deer themselves, proved quite a challenge—just the kind of challenge DGCD’s interdisciplinary team loves to solve!

After learning a lot about wildlife and holding some all-hands-on-deck brainstorming sessions, DGCD developed a complete solution, including everything from the extruded aluminum cage to the electronics, cables, electronics enclosures and system software for operation.

In the winter of 2010/2011, the CDOW used the cage to collar eight fawns in four different foothills test locations around Fort Collins, Colorado. Following a second year of testing and development improvements, the cage will be deployed for field testing in the remote mountains of Western Colorado.