U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



PLoS ONE 7(9): e44838; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044838


Methods to individually mark and identify free-ranging wildlife without trapping and handling would be useful for a variety of research and management purposes. The use of Passive Integrated Transponder technology could be an efficient method for collecting data for mark-recapture analysis and other strategies for assessing characteristics about populations of various wildlife species. Passive Integrated Transponder tags (PIT) have unique numbered frequencies and have been used to successfully mark and identify mammals. We tested for successful injection of PIT and subsequent functioning of PIT into gelatin blocks using 4 variations of a prototype dart. We then selected the prototype dart that resulted in the least depth of penetration in the gelatin block to assess the ability of PIT to be successfully implanted into muscle tissue of whitetailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) post-mortem and long-term in live, captive Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus). The prototype dart with a 12.7 mm (0.5 inch) needle length and no powder charge resulted in the shallowest mean (± SD) penetration depth into gelatin blocks of 27.0 mm (±5.6 mm) with 2.0 psi setting on the Dan-Inject CO2-pressured rifle. Eighty percent of PIT were successfully injected in the muscle mass of white-tailed deer post-mortem with a mean (± SD) penetration depth of 22.2 mm (±3.8 mm; n = 6). We injected PIT successfully into 13 live, captive elk by remote delivery at about 20 m that remained functional for 7 months. We successfully demonstrated that PIT could be remotely delivered in darts into muscle mass of large mammals and remain functional for >6 months. Although further research is warranted to fully develop the technique, remote delivery of PIT technology to large mammals is possible using prototype implant darts.