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GPS collars on wolves  -   The Finnish wolf research project 2004


Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute

by Ilpo Kojola

Introduction to our wolf research

About 110 to 120 wolves live in Finland. Annually 12 of these animals may legally be hunted. The wolves live in small packs with a distinct social hierarchy. The pack size varies between 5 - 12 animals depending upon the season and the “founding history” of the pack. Every night, they cover an average distance of 15 to 20 km, in summer up to 40 km. Normally they cover distances in a “wolf trot”, an energy saving gait, but they can accelerate to 50 km/h over short stretches, for example, when they are hunting. Their prey consists of 70% moose, 25% wild reindeer, and 5% hares, rodents, and birds.

Due to their high mobility, their spatial and temporal behaviour wolves are difficult to investigate and wolf research has been a hard job. Here GPS telemetry with data transmission via mobile phone system provides the optimal solution. We use the newest applied technology, GPS-GSM collars. The wolves wear 750 g collars with drop off mechanism. The investigation area is located in the eastern region of Finland (Fig. 1). Since wolves are hunted there illegally as well as legally, this area will not be localized in further detail.

Fig. 1:  Location of the investigation area in Finland (red symbol)

The collars are programmed to take 6 positions per day. The data are transmitted as an SMS (Short Message Service) direct into our office when GSM coverage is available, wheras 7 locations become sent with 1 SMS. When no GSM coverage is available,  the GPS fix data will be retransmitted next time when GSM coverage is available. This is the most secure option to get the maximum of data via GSM network and track the wolfves as efficently as possible.


First Results

This spring 16 wolfs have been marked with collars of different tracking systems.









The movements of several GPS-GSM collared wolves will be presented on this site.

Figure 1 shows the first results of two wolves. Irina is a four year old alpha female, who will have her second litter in this spring. Retu is a three year old alpha male, even young, he is very large (82 cm 'hight'). Could be possible that he is a trouble maker, because he killed already dogs.

Fig. 1: Localization points of Irina (n=576) and Retu (n=513) connected in chronological order,
April - August, 2004



For more information please contact Ilpo Kojola, head predator research RKTL Finland:


Dr Ilpo Kojola, Finland, RKTL,







last update: August 26, 2004