Brady Neiles of South Dakota’s Game, Fish & Parks, has transformed the way wildlife populations are tracked. Using B9Creations 3D printing technology, Neiles created an expandable collar with a tracker – an alternative to surgical implantation, the only tracking method used on juvenile bobcats today. The potential extends far beyond, to population estimates on species, like fawn, throughout the United States.
The current, most common method of tracking bobcat kittens involves implanting a radio transmitter into their bodies – which can lead to injury, migration to other areas of the body and even fatalities in some instances. Conversely, Neiles’ 3D printed collars present a safer alternative to track the juvenile bobcat population.
Collars with tracking capabilities have been used before but to no avail. Unlike the high-tech GPS technology used, according to Neiles, the collars are stuck in the ’70s. Collars have been made using weatherproof fabrics and different bolt attachments, meaning their capability to stretch is very little. Consequently, they often reach their end of life in under six months.
“What we’re looking for as the end goal is a population growth rate for bobcats in the Black Hills, and a survival estimate. So, to get a specific growth rate, which helps us with our harvest, models, and population viability – we need the kitten survival rate. And that’s just never been published before for bobcats,” said Neiles.
Neiles initially brought his idea to life using B9Creation’s high-speed Gray prototyping resin. That proof of concept landed Neiles – and South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks – the federal funding to take his project to the next level. Federal funding will be matched by the State of South Dakota. West Virginia University agreed to cover tuition and a living stipend for a graduate student to help Neiles roll-out the second phase of his work.
With high durability, flexibility, and low moisture absorption, B9Creations’ new Rugged – Nylon 6 is an ideal material for his final design. Now, Neiles is in the process of prototyping a new version of his expandable collars using the Rugged – Nylon 6 resin and, if successful as anticipated, the collars’ potential spreads far beyond the borders of South Dakota.
“Once everything is tuned up, the collars would make a huge difference – we collar a lot of juveniles in wildlife, so down the road, I could see this being used to collect population estimates on a lot of other species as well. We collar 250 fawns every single year throughout the state of South Dakota. That would be a huge opportunity, too,” said Neiles.