Elk NetworkRMEF Supports Innovative Virtual Fencing Technology

General | January 5, 2024

To put it simply, it’s a well-known technology already successfully used by dog owners that is applied on a larger scale for the benefit of cattle, elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife.

“The easiest way to think about it is that it’s like an invisible fence for your dog. Except instead of a cable buried in your yard that the dog collar responds to, this actually uses GPS towers with satellite, and collars that are connected to essentially tell the cattle where their pasture is and where they can’t go,” Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) CEO Brian Yablonski, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

The virtual fencing experiment is on the McFarland White Ranch north of Livingston, Montana. It’s financially supported by PERC, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Wildlife Federation.

“There are thousands and thousands of miles of barbed wire fencing across the nation,” said Karie Decker, RMEF director of wildlife and habitat. “While fencing helps ranchers manage cattle, some fencing can be a major hinderance for elk and other wildlife trying to move across the landscape. This technology can be a benefit for cattle ranchers and safely clears the way for migrating wildlife.”

Solar-powered towers generate virtual borders that help collared cattle to know where to go and where they should not.

“The more that I learned about it, the clearer it became that this could be a powerful tool for conservation across the entire ranch,” Laine White, ranch co-manager, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “I’m glad to have found support through these conservation organizations, and I’m really glad to be on this forward path with such an innovative technology.”

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)