Smart RFID Technology = A Humane, Effective Solution for Managing Wild and Feral Animal Populations

Population management strategies for America’s wild horses have traditionally relied on helicopter-enabled roundups, holding pens, and the delivery of contraceptives or sterilization surgeries to individual animals while restrained. It’s an approach that is stressful to the animals, costly, and with results that are nearly impossible to track, let alone measure.

There are reasons these practices continue. Until now, there has been no systematic, accurate way to manage feral and native animal species other than roundups or tallies based on sight or notes. I write this not to place blame; it’s just the way it is.

When I originally had the idea for the WPM Remote Wildlife Vaccine Delivery System, I was convinced we needed both a humane, technology-driven way to manage feral and wild animal populations supported by a mechanism for easily and systematically identifying individual animals. In my mind, without this ability, population management would not be truly effective. And so, remote RFID micro chipping of individual animals, be it horses, feral hogs, deer, elk, bison or camels, is an integral component of WPM solution.

Why RFID Microchips makes sense for humane management of wild horses

You may have had your pet micro chipped. I know I chipped my dog. It’s a pretty common way to identify them if they get lost. Thoroughbreds and other high-value show horses are often micro-chipped to verify ownership. It’s relatively painless and a practice veterinarians and many pet and horses owners believe to be well worth the investment.

RFID Microchip

WPM takes RFID microchip technology—with new, remote capabilities for delivering and reading the chips—and applies it as a powerful tool in the humane management of feral horse and other native species. Here’s what we accomplish by doing so:

  • Gives each horse (or deer, bison, camel or feral pig) a unique identification number.
  • Enables real-time tracking, enabled by satellite, of an animal’s location and general health.
  • Helps verify the animal’s fertility status (pregnant or not).
  • Alerts rangeland of animal manager when a booster vaccine is needed.
  • Allows oversight of health of individual animals, bands or the entire population.
  • Supports wild horse adoption efforts.
  • Supports the allocation of resources and budgets.
  • And, at a time of growing concern about diseases that can pass from species-to-species (think coronavirus), RFID micro-chipping can detect and help track the presence and spread of disease.

That’s huge, don’t you think? And this technology-enabled approach is achieved without laying a physical hand on the animals. Humanely, without fear or pain. Everything is done remotely using a smart device such as a phone or tablet.

Making RFID easy, painless and without stress

For the last nine months, WPM has run a pilot program to remotely microchip and track a population of free-roaming horses in New Mexico. At the center of the pilot is the WPM Hub, a technology-based center that delivers RFID microchips and contraceptives to free-roaming horses when they choose to enter the Hub.

As of January 29, 2020, WPM has RFID micro-chipped more than 30 horses and tracked and validated over 60,000 readings of those microchips. Not one mustang has been handled, frightened or stressed. Here’s how we did it:

  • The horses enter the Hub by their own free will, encouraged by alfalfa, a hay much like candy to equines.
  • The chip is roughly the size of a grain of rice. It is positioned vertically in the animal’s triceps muscle to secure the position and discourage the chip from moving.

  • The dart itself is on a tether so spent darts can easily be collected and disposed of.
  • RFID readers in the Hub verify if the animal has been chipped. If not, the cameras verify the horse’s position for delivery of the chip. A remote operator – she/he could be in Albuquerque or Honolulu – delivers the RFID Microchip remotely using a smart device. ·      

  • Once activated, a dart with the RFID chip travels just six inches from device to animal to insert the RFID microchip. Due to the low velocity of the dart, the animal feels a momentary sting and no lasting pain. Most continue feeding post injection. This is in stark contrast to dart rifles that require significant velocity and force to hit their target.

    It is important to note that no one in the world besides WPM has succeeded in remotely implanting RFID microchips in free-roaming horses so precisely that the chips can be read remotely.
  • The chips can immediately be read, aided by WPM’s satellite, and data collected, saved and made accessible for range land and animal managers.

Throughout WPM’s pilot, no microchip injection sites became infected.

So what does this mean to those charged with managing the world’s animal populations?

WPM’s patented remote vaccine and RFID microchip delivery system helps wildlife managers achieve comprehensive population goals in a manner that is best for individual animals, entire species and the habitat. Integrating the latest technology into a singular smart solution, the system is designed to deliver RFID microchips, vaccines and contraceptives; monitor health, track the location of animals, and capture heretofore unavailable data on individual animals, groups, and herds that can be used to support population health, resource allocation and scientific studies.

In a word, there is no other remote system that achieves wildlife and feral animal population goals, while respecting the animals and the environment. And it works.

In closing, WPM’s system does not require cost-intensive activities such as roundups or holding facilities to implement. Tested on wild horses, the system can be adapted for other species, including feral hogs, deer, elk, buffalo, kangaroos, and camels. To learn more, contact WPM CEO Roch Hart at rhart@wildlifepm.com. The conversation – and the solution – starts here.

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