Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about the behind the scenes

Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: September 27, 2021


1. How do you capture, collar, and process the deer?

Captures are made by graduate students using clover traps on SIU’s campus in areas where deer are most likely to be found (Thompson Woods, around Campus Lake, and on the west side of campus) in late April and early May. Corn is used to attract deer into the traps, and the traps are checked twice daily. When a deer is captured, the deer is immobilized using a fully reversible drug (BAM). Each captured deer is fitted with a GPS collar which has a battery life of approximately 2 years. These collars also have a dropoff mechanism that is programmed to release the collar from the animal after the tracking period. The collars weigh less than 1 lb, meaning that these collars weigh less than 1% of deer body mass. We capture deer in a similar manner at other sites around Illinois.

2. How do you capture, collar, and process the bobcats and coyotes?

Bobcats and coyotes have been trapped and collared each winter since 2018 at SIU’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center, located south of campus, as well as on public land around Lake Shelbyville, located about 2.5 hours north of Carbondale. Bobcats are trapped using cage traps, which involves a bobcat entering a cage and triggering a mechanism which closes the door. Coyotes are trapped using foothold traps, which hold the coyote’s paw in place using rubber jaws after they step on the trigger hidden in the ground. Both trapping methods are very safe and leave the animal unharmed. Once a bobcat or coyote is trapped, the animal is sedated and our wildlife crew measures, weighs, collects demographic information, and fits the animal with a GPS collar, similar in design but smaller than the ones we put on deer. The predator collars drop off after one year. Once the animal’s sedation is reversed, it is free to go and collect location information for our GPS database!

3. What do we plan on doing with this research? Why is this study important?

The Deer of SIU project accomplishes multiple goals. First, tracking deer on campus is helping us better understand their movement in an urban landscape, especially in a landscape with a lot of changes in human presence (for example during the summer semester vs fall and spring). Given the constant expansion of urban areas, understanding how animals adjust their behavior to humans is becoming increasingly important. Second, conducting wildlife research is often extremely expensive and it is therefore difficult for students to get hands-on experience with wildlife research. This project will help train undergraduate students in the zoology program by giving them the opportunity to be involved in field operations and with using the data to conduct independent research projects. Lastly, this project also aims at increasing the appreciation for nature and wildlife of the broader SIU community by sharing with them interesting findings on the charismatic animal sharing the campus with them.

4. Are the captures stressful for the deer?

Captures can be stressful for the deer, but we try to reduce the level of stress they endure as much as possible. Deer are generally quickly sedated so that they can be handled safely without any risk of injury. The drugs we use are safe and can be quickly reversed when we are done processing the deer. In general, a deer is back up and running in less than 30 minutes.

5. How can I get involved?

Feel free to reach out if you would like to get involved. We are on the lookout for students to help us with checking traps in the spring. Students interested in using the data for a research project are also encouraged to reach out.

6. Will you keep doing this?

We are hoping to keep collaring a few deer every year. We are looking for support to assist in purchasing the GPS collars. If you would like to support, please visit the Contribute page.

7. I have a question you haven’t answered. How can I contribute to the FAQs?

Send us your questions over email ( and we may add it to this page!