Detrimental Effects of Radio Collars

The once happy-go-lucky coyote is now wounded 

I cried when I next saw the coyote pictured above. She had more wounds and was thin and frail looking. Only a month ago she was so infectiously happy — she brought joy to all who observed her. This is the coyote who was displaced from her own territory by another coyote a month ago, on February 5th. She returned several times, but the newcomer’s presence drove her away each time. Her appearance and demeanor reflect her story: The fur around her entire neck has been pulled and torn — it’s damp from oozing. Through the fur you can see the injuries on her neck front, with a flap of skin hanging down. On the side of her neck is another deep gash. Her legs are covered with wounds. Her face, as you can see here, has a number of lacerations.

Everyone who knows this gal knows her upbeat personality. She’s good-willed towards everyone: people and dogs. She has always been sprightly and playful, even as a loner, and when a male arrived she was welcoming, loving and playful with him — incredibly so, to the joy and amazement of all onlookers. Then the intruder came in, displaced her, and, in short, put a crimp in everything she had going for her. Nature is nature, and we have to accept that: that coyotes have their own internal affairs to work out. BUT here there was human involvement which needs to be examined.

About the Intruder: We know the intruder had been wandering about for the last little while because she ended up in the Presidio where she was nabbed and radio-collared on January 3rd, even though she was not an inhabitant of that park. At the time she was collared, she was deemed 2+ years of age. And that’s all you need to know about her to understand this story.

Let’s talk about the radio-collar on that intruder. First note that, although there are wounds on our coyote’s legs, face and head, the majority of deep wounds sustained by her are on and around her neck. That’s one of the places where coyotes attack. So you can be sure that’s where our coyote, too, tried attacking her opponent. But the intruder/opponent had been outfitted with armor: the large impenetrable radio-collar which interfered with the bites to those places — bites meant to defend her territory — that our coyote tried to inflict. The intruder was thus protected and came to the fight with a huge advantage. What does this say about radio-collaring? It says that this human-made gadget — and humans are very fond of their “gadgets” — which a human forcibly attaches to animals for our human convenience, is changing the outcome of lives — it’s interfering where we should not be interfering. Is “science” more important than the animals being studied? The scientists using the collars of course aren’t going to say anything negative about them. But other people have been writing about this:

“Being chased [. . . or trapped, then wrestled to the ground], then waking up tagged or collared, is by no means voluntary on the part of wildlife and has not only physical concequences, but traumatic psychological effects on the victim. For instance, a wild wolves often show symptoms of PTSD up to a year after being helicopter darted and collared. Whales become reluctant to approach whale watching boats when “researchers” move in and begin “tagging” them. Etc.

Ear-tags and radio-collars are used in the Presidio, a federal park in the NW corner of San Francisco. We should be concerned about these gadgets we are attaching to animals for our benefit, because they certainly are not helping the animals. In the first place, capturing the animal for this purpose is a terrifying experience for every animal. Coyotes are wary of humans and won’t let anyone get close to them. For them, capturing them must be a “leading to death” experience.

The ear tags: Two 1″ plastic disks are placed on the fur on the inner and outer side of the ear, so this includes the side where sound waves enter the ear. No one is going to tell me that this doesn’t alter sounds, especially for ears as sensitive as a coyote’s. Sound is normally helped by passing over their natural fur, not a piece of plastic. That’s just the sound-wave angle. More on animal hearing.

The plastic hardware itself can be irritating and can also pick up and harbor bugs, especially ticks — one of the insects that plague coyotes the most as I’ve written about — and neither the coyote, nor her mate who often helps with the grooming, has any way to reach under those tags to get them off. Infections can be caused by the piercing of the ear, just as they do in human piercings, except that coyotes aren’t monitored for this. A friend of mine saw a coyote with an infected ear caused by a tag.

In addition, I’ve been told by several behaviorists that animals may shun/reject other animals who are strangely marked (or deformed). I wonder if ear-tags and collars would have this effect?

The collars. These things are not only heavy, they are bulky and cumbersome. I’ve seen coyotes attempt to shake off a collar, either because of it’s cumbersome size and weight around their necks, or because of the irritations caused by the collar itself: abrasions, grit, bugs. These are not domestic animals, so much more gets lodged behind their collars than what we see on our dogs. Ticks love to hide on dog ears and under dog collars — the same would be true for coyotes.

Attempting to shake off the collar

But, FOREMOST, a collar can actually change the outcome of coyotes’ lives, for instance, the outcome of a territorial dispute, which is what was involved here. I’ve seen plenty of territorial disputes, but inevitably, it’s the territorial owner who is able to drive out the intruder, not the other way around unless the owners have become old and feeble. Our coyote was in the prime of life, four years old. She could/should easily have driven the intruder away. She herself was wounded severely ON THE NECK, where coyotes intentionally inflict damage. If our coyote tried this tactic on the other coyote, which I’m sure she did, she got a mouth full of hard radio and hard collar. The radio-collar provided armor and a huge advantage to the intruder. The intruder was left unscathed by all appearances. When our coyote returned again to wrestle back her turf, she was met with the same disadvantaged circumstances, and more wounds to herself.

Large plastic ear-tags and a bulky radio contraption shackled to her neck

Radio collars might be deemed a necessary evil for particular studies — their use should be extremely limited. But they are not needed for “management”, which is what they are purportedly being used for in the Presidio. “Management” requires one thing alone: educating the public to walk away from coyotes and keep their dogs away from them. Coyotes naturally avoid humans unless they are being fed or befriended. Signs, literature, talks are what is needed. Whether or not coyotes are radio-collared, the public will still need to KNOW what to do if they encounter a coyote: they need to walk away from a coyote. Coyotes can move about quickly, so no map is going to show where coyotes are at any particular time. When dens have been discovered and cordoned off to protect coyotes and dogs from each other, it has more often than not been done after the den was inadvertently discovered by the public. Additional management can be added on a case-to-case basis in the few instances when it is necessary.

By the way, coyotes will not over-populate any given area — this is because they self-regulate their population through their territorial imperatives. So collars are not needed for population management. The collars are used only to track movements. Since we now know coyotes general movements within the Presidio, and even out of the Presidio to Los Gatos, why are we continuing to collar them?

See also: For sage grouse, science can be fatal.

Addendum from a comment I made on FBI concur that most “scientists” are out to help the animals, even though I know multiple instances of where the “information” is considered more important than the animal. As I said above, learning from a minimal amount of collaring could be useful.

But where there are other means, collaring shouldn’t be done because of collateral effects. A researcher’s “good intentions” aren’t enough. Good intentions are often harmful: for instance, feeding wildlife. Collaring is not a benign thing. There are too many things we DON’T know about these animals to be shackling them with our gadgets unless absolutely necessary, and even then it should be minimally. Did you read the article on hearing linked above? There are a lot of things about animals that humans simply don’t have any comprehension about, and that’s because we ourselves are limited by our five senses, and we tend to use ourselves as the gold standard — until we’re surprised, for instance, that elephants can hear clouds. Also, radio telemetry does not reveal their interpersonal behaviors. What I observed in this posting probably goes on a lot — it wasn’t just a one-time fluke that I just happened to see — but few scientists actually spend huge amounts of time watching coyote behavior, which is what it takes: they like their instruments, their data, and crunching numbers.

This article was written to let all those folks with good intentions know that they may be creating more harm than they can imagine, specifically with radio-collars. So please use them sparingly, and only if you really have to.

Another Addendum: I found these photos on iNaturalist taken in the Presidio on February 19th by EEHelton. Here is an obvious example of an infected ear caused by tags. This female coyote was perfectly fine only a month before these photos were taken.

And More: My series of three postings and the comments left on Instagram on July 6, July 8, and July 9, 2020, beginning with this posting:, and then a series of three more posted on January 23, 24, and 27, beginning with this posting:

Click on the images to enlarge and scroll through them.

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cindie White
    Mar 08, 2019 @ 00:22:01

    Amen Janet! AH! I’m crying too. This is so well said and laid out. I just attended a wildlife talk and the presenter was a mountain lion tracker who was educating people about their behaviors. Although I learned something interesting things about Mountain Lions (he had good trail cam footage), the presentation was very difficult for me to see and hear. The presenter showed us with photos exactly how they track and hunt mountain lions (often they tree them with dogs), and then shoot them to sedated them (sometimes it appeared to me they could get injured or muscles tweaked when they were tied/carried/moved too) and then jabs and pokes to gather data and then install a collar (and sometimes and ear tag too!!!!). It was so shocking to see giant collars and ear tags on little necks and ears. No matter how you slice it I can not imagine being a wild animal and having to endure the chasing/trapping/drugs/poking/tying/pulling/twisting – and sometime more…and then having to wear a large collar around my neck (and/or a large tag in my ear). It’s so painful for me to see a photo of a wild animal with a radio collar or ear tag. It horrifies me. I actually feel sick. Everything you said resonates – and I just keep thinking what if we did that to humans and made them wear the big heavy radio collars around their necks everyday! Sheer torture and inhumane – so why is it okay for animals? Thank you for helping to raise the awareness.


  2. yipps:janetkessler
    Mar 08, 2019 @ 04:53:16

    Hi Cindie — I think a lot of folks think of “science” as some sort of religion. With this frame of mind, anything called “scientific”, or done for “scientific” purposes, is validated as of course being correct and beneficial. But it just isn’t so. I’m seeing pain and suffering at the hand of science. It needs to be rethought.


    • Jeff Garner
      Mar 27, 2019 @ 01:52:58

      Science is a wonderful thing but must be tempered by wisdom. Otherwise it is just kids pulling wings off flies to see what will happen.

  3. MelindaH.
    Mar 08, 2019 @ 16:58:59

    I have long been opposed to the use of collars on wildlife. They are cruel, inhumane , and do indeed interfere in the animals’ way of being. They seem to be a lazy excuse to getting out in the field to do some research.
    In our state (WA), wolves are routinely forced to endure the trauma of collaring. The State’s reason is allegedly keep track of wildlife (???. In fact the electronic information is released to hunters and ranchers, but not to the public, under the guise of ranchers then being able to move their herds into safer areas.
    In fact, many ranchers use the data of known wolf location and den sites, to set up salt licks, etc, thereby luring cattle to their deaths. In return the State feels justified in launching the choppers and snipers ( who are rarely accurate marksmen here), causing more pain and suffering. The State has wiped out numerous packs in this manner. Collars seem inevitably to lead to animal suffering and a form of government corruption.


    • ole possum
      Jun 07, 2019 @ 17:15:12

      I would wonder why they are not prosecuted for that. With the data, it would seem fairly easy to prove they
      are doing that. if indeed they actually are.

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Jun 07, 2019 @ 17:26:09

      Hi Ole —

      “Scientists” are hooked on their established and accepted methods — they don’t want to change a “tool” they’ve used for decades, or admit its harmful effects, so often they focus only on what they want to see. I’ve tried exposing this to them, but I truly doubt they are strong enough to change. Their “research” or even the appearance of research is much more important to them than the animal itself.

  4. ASH
    Mar 08, 2019 @ 19:47:27

    Your philosophy is truth
    A heart wrenching truth


  5. Candy
    Mar 08, 2019 @ 20:59:45

    I did not even think about this until I saw and read your post. Very interesting. Thank you for posting this.


  6. yipps:janetkessler
    Mar 09, 2019 @ 06:29:13

    Thanks, Ash! Thanks, Candy! Janet


  7. yipps:janetkessler
    Mar 14, 2019 @ 06:48:28


  8. Jeff Garner
    Mar 27, 2019 @ 01:49:05

    I am too broken hearted to respond intelligently. I had a wonderful relationship with Miss Coyote and her new mate and would gladly capture, disorientate and radio collar the “expletive deleted” who ruined the lives of all three coyotes for his own curiosity. If there is any justice he will burn in the fieryist pit of blackest hell for what he has done.


  9. Darlene Abbott
    Mar 30, 2019 @ 05:57:38

    I oppose GPS collars because they can put the hunters right in locations with the coyote or who ever else that wants to harm the animal.Please stop using them.


  10. leybrabear
    Mar 30, 2019 @ 19:14:06

    Collaring is the pseudo-science behind the claim of ‘scientific wildlife management’ (hunting & trapping) by F&W agencies. Whether it be rounding up & collaring Canada geese during their molt, or sneaking into hibernating bear dens to tag or collar bears, or drug-darting & collaring, it’s the ‘field work’ used to educate (indoctrinate) student biologists. It’s used to track wildlife’s movements (for what purpose who knows) & as the ‘scientific’ justification for future kill quotas; other than a count assumed by hunter’s reported kills & sightings. Besides it’s ‘unnecessary’ inhumane & negative effect on wildlife, just like killing contests, the only way to end collaring is thru state legislation. A bill to end it because F&W Dept’s. wont.


  11. ole possum
    Jun 07, 2019 @ 17:18:48

    science can definitely have its pros and cons. It seems like they are always finding the previous generation of scientists messed up, and often the pendulum swings back to excess on the other side. But at the same time, I wouldn’t want to dismiss whatever they say without looking into it. When it comes to such a controversial subject, there are many with no scientific credentials weighing in as well. It is difficult to know how much credibility to give them over those with actual scientific credentials.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Jun 07, 2019 @ 17:33:10

      Hi Ole — I would beware of anyone claiming superior knowledge simply because they have academic or scientific “credentials”. They are not always the most knowledgeable people about a subject, as I’ve found out by speaking with them.

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