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Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife installs new long-distance wildlife tracking stations

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The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife is installing new tracking stations that will link it with other biologists around the world.

The department has set up three Motus wildlife tracking stations across the state that will help with their research and conservation efforts. The stations use a specialized radio receiver that scans different species of birds, bats and insects. That data is shared with a network of 1,800 Motus stations worldwide.

Michael Patton is an avian biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. He says that international collaboration is the most exciting part of the new tech.

“If I deploy a tag in Kentucky, and my bird flies down to Costa Rica, it will know that that bird got picked up in Costa Rica because there’s a station there,” Patton said. “Beforehand, it was up to me to be out in the field with a handheld Yagi receiver, trying to find out where that bird is in the landscape.”

The three stations include one at Eastern Kentucky University’s Taylor Fork Property, one at central Kentucky’s Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill and one at Marshall County’s Hancock Biological Station in western Kentucky.

Patton says the Department is currently using the Motus systems to learn where Kentucky’s field sparrows travel during migration. There are also plans to tag and track thrush in eastern Kentucky.

“It lets us know wherever it's going, where are these important stopover habitats, it lets us learn a lot about the survival of the species and individuals,” Patton said. “We're kind of tapping into a lot of new knowledge now, it’s really exciting.”

The Hancock Biological Station tower detected its first bird last October: an Eastern Whip-poor-will originally tagged in Ontario.

Shepherd joined WEKU in June 2023 as a staff reporter. He most recently worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting as General Assignment Reporter. In that role, he collected interviews and captured photos in the northern region of West Virginia. Shepherd holds a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Communication and a bachelor’s in music from West Virginia University.
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