Motus System for Tracking Wildlife Movement


Motus is an automated wildlife tracking network that enables wildlife scientists and managers to track movements of highly mobile species, including birds, bats, and flying insects, as well as more localized movements of species like amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals. It has been effectively deployed in eastern North America and has great potential to inform wildlife conservation and management decisions in California and other western states. CDFW and a variety of partners are working hard to expand this network to further refine the network’s resolution.

How It Works

Motus is a radio telemetry system consisting of networked stationary receivers and animals tagged with very small radio transmitters. It is unique among radio telemetry systems in that any Motus receiving station, regardless of who established the station, will detect and log tagged animals from any registered project. Thus, large networks of stations across the landscape benefit all users.


Motus holds significant advantages over traditional methods of understanding large scale wildlife movements:

  1. Data collection is automatic, so researchers do not need to expend resources on manual tracking to “recapture” tagged animals;
  2. Radio tags can be made smaller and more lightweight than GPS and other tag types, which reduces stress on tagged animals and broadens the variety of taxa that can be studied;
  3. Radio tags are far less expensive than GPS and other tag types, allowing researchers to increase samples sizes.

The Motus system enables conservation NGOs, university researchers and CDFW scientists to assess how migratory species from many taxa are using landscapes across California and the Pacific Flyway.

Current Status

In the past 2 years, the network in California has grown from just 4 stations to over 35 stations, with more being added all the time. In the coming years many conservation NGOs will be adding to the network and CDFW alone will be adding 40 more stations on primarily CDFW lands across the state.

Find Out More

The Motus website(opens in new tab) has a wealth of information, including species and individual tracks. CDFW is Project #446(opens in new tab). You can also contact CDFW’s Motus coordinator, Levi Souza, for more information.