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Applying New Technology... In the Field

Posted: March 25, 2015

I have always found this job to be exciting—who wouldn’t enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with racing up to a trapped deer and wrestling it to the ground? But it has been even more exciting in the past month.

Well, perhaps exciting isn’t the right word, but interesting would suit.

In mid-February, the crew and I drove to State College to receive training on using VITS, or vaginally-implanted transmitters, which are being used as part of a fawn study for the spring. The idea behind it is rather simple: each VIT is paired with a specific radio collar.

When a doe is trapped, we sedate her and fit her with the radio-collar and insert the VIT using an applicator and a bit of lubrication. When she gives birth in the spring (we only do this with adult doe and almost all are pregnant), the VIT will fall out in the process and alert us via email to the location of the fawn. We then will use the coordinates to capture the fawns and fit them with a radio-collar and ear tags.

The training, it turned out, was also straightforward, although I found myself quite nervous. Would I hurt the deer? What if I made some sort of awful mistake in the process? Gosh, all of this information is a lot to keep track of. I’m definitely going to forget something.

A nervous person by nature, I wanted to get my turn at inserting a VIT over with as quickly as possible, so I was one of the first to volunteer to have a go at it. And, like I said, the entire process was simple and painless. Well, painless for me… and I’m pretty sure the doe felt the same.

Since that day, our crew has deployed five VITs and collars. Our first doe was a rather hectic process because we had not yet gotten into a rhythm, but we have since mastered the entire process.

doeblanketvit

We now know the proper drug dosage to give the deer based on her size, we have all taken turns at the various roles—wrestling the deer, administering the drugs, attaching the collar and ear tags, inserting the VIT, recording the data—and we approach the situation with a general air of confidence.

Deploying our most recent VIT was an incredibly smooth process and we all stood around with grins on our faces as we watched the doe take off into the forest, a new piece of jewelry around her neck…and one in…other places.

-Kelsey Worthington, field technician
Northern Field Crew 

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