Biology students trap and track urban deer

December 07, 2018
students with tranquilized deer

A unique opportunity for Stillwater Area High School students to work with experts from the Wildlife Science Center to trap and track urban deer in their own backyard.

Teacher Andy Weaver’s Field Biology and AP Biology classes received state and federal permits to do the activity. The project is designed to give students hands-on experience studying the behaviors and movement of wild deer that live in urban settings.

A live trap was placed in the school’s Environmental Learning Center, a 55 acre parcel adjacent to SAHS. Trail cameras showed that a doe was caught on Tuesday, Dec. 4.

A team from the Wildlife Science Center came and tranquilized the deer, thinking first and foremost of the animal’s safety and comfort. Her head was covered with a hood to reduce stress, while students monitored her heart rate and temperature every few minutes to make sure she wasn’t suffering from hypothermia. She was given a shot of antibiotics to fight any infection and a blood sample was taken to measure her health. By examining her teeth, they were able to determine that the deer is two and a half years old.

They also prepared a radio collar to be fitted on her, paying special attention to sizing it to allow room for growth over the coming months. The collar will send a signal that can be captured with traditional radio receivers, this is how students working on this project will monitor the doe’s location and follow her activities for the next year. They will report out on her movements and strive to learn more about the behaviors of urban deer. Student have already monitored the doe spending time southeast of the high school.

The collar will continue to send signals for one year, at which time the battery will expire, the collar will release itself from deer and the team will retrieve it. The collar also utilizes satellites and is programmed to turn on and off eight times a day and can be remotely triggered.

Thanks to the St. Croix Valley Chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association which provided a majority of the funding for the project. For more photos visit our Facebook page.