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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Radio-collars and other radio-marking devices have been invaluable tools for wildlife managers for >40 years. These marking devices have improved our understanding of wildlife spatial ecology and demographic parameters and provided new data facilitating model development for species conservation and management. Although these tools have been used on virtually all North American ungulates, their deployment on feral horses (Equus ferus caballus) or burros (E. asinus) has been limited. To determine if radio-collars and radio-tags could be safely deployed on feral equids, we conducted a 1-year observational study in 2015 to investigate fit and wear of radio-collars on feral horses and burros kept in pastures/pens at the Bureau of Land Management contracted adoption facility in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, USA. We assessed the impact of radio-collars and transmitter tags on individual behavior, body condition, and evaluated neck surface for effects. We tested 2 radio-collar shapes (teardrop and oval) and a radio-tag (i.e., avian backpack) braided into the mane and tail of horses. Behavior of mares did not differ between radio-collared (n = 12) and control (uncollared; n = 12) individuals. Despite the small sample size, collared burro jennies (n = 4) spent more time standing than controls (n = 4). Stallions wearing radio-collars (n = 9) fed less, moved less, and stood more than controls (n = 8). During the study, we did not detect injuries to the necks of mares or burro jennies, but stallions developed small sores (that healed while still wearing radio-collars and re-haired within 3 months). Two radio-collars occasionally flipped forward over the ears onto the foreheads of stallions. Although our study confirmed that radio-collars could be safely deployed on captive mares and jennies, stallions proved challenging for a variety of reasons. While our conclusions were optimistic, longer studies will be required to ensure radio-collar safety on free-ranging feral horses and burros.