© GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY
UPEI masters students Will Robbins and Hailey Lambe are tracking some of P.E.I.’s savvy urban fox population for a UPEI-based research project.
A UPEI research team is missing about $2,100 worth of equipment, in the form of a GPS collar, and have about a month to find it before more complications arise.
The P.E.I. Urban Fox Project has been tracking public sightings of urban red foxes since 2012 through an online reporting system. The researchers implemented an online crowd-sourced data-collecting project in which people report where they see the foxes so that information can be mapped and help the researchers determine their population and their movement patterns. They’ve also been using wildlife cameras and GPS collars to help in the research.
Last month the researchers captured, collared and released their first red fox and have been tracking it since. On Sept. 30 the collar was scheduled to fall off the fox. Due to technical issues, they are unable to pin point the collar’s location which contains valuable data for the study.
With cold weather approaching and snow looming, the number one priority is finding the collar before it’s damaged.
“We do have a bit of time but we don’t have a lot of time. Realistically I want to have it back in the next month,” said Sheldon Opps, who is a theoretical physicist and associate professor of physics at UPEI.
The collar is programmed to take a GPS fix of the fox’s location every 15 minutes for 18 days, giving them upwards of 25,000 points of data to work with.
“It’s a lot of information to really start seeing the larger picture. To capture that amount of information is really paramount for this project,” Opps said.
The collar is set on a particular frequency. The receiver the researchers are using is supposed to be able to pick up the signal from the collar at a two kilometre range, however they’re only getting signals from 40 metres out.
“Even if you do rigorous and thorough testing of your equipment, it can still fail on you at any moment,” Opps said.
The fox was captured and collared on Greensview Drive and was last seen on Marion Drive in Stratford.
The researchers are working on refurbishing and retuning older receivers to better orchestrate a search pattern in those areas using several units instead of just one. They are also calling on the public to help in the search. The collar resembles a black dog collar, with a plastic rectangular box and an antenna attached to it.
Opps says the collar could be in somebody’s backyard.
If anyone comes across the collar they are asked to contact one of these phone numbers immediately, (902) 566-0421 or 566-0602.