Recent miniaturization and weight reductions of Global Positioning System (GPS) collars have opened up deployment opportunities on a new array of terrestrial animal species, but the performance of lightweight (<90 g) GPS collars has not been evaluated. I examined the success of 42 GPS collars from 3 manufacturers (Televilt/TVP Positioning, AB, Lindesburg, Sweden; Sirtrack Ltd., Havelock North, New Zealand; H.A.B.I.T [HABIT] Research Ltd., Victoria, BC, Canada) in stationary, open-sky conditions and during deployments on brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula), a nocturnal arboreal marsupial. I assessed performance of these collars in terms of technical malfunctions, fix-success rates, battery longevity, and aspects of location quality. Technical malfunctions occurred in >50% of HABIT and Televilt collars, whereas all Sirtrack collars operated normally. Fix-success rates for all brands were significantly higher during stationary tests than when deployed on brushtail possums. HABIT and Televilt brands functioned poorly in field conditions, with success rates of 16.2% and 2.1%, respectively. Sirtrack collars had the highest fix rate when deployed (64.8%). I modified several HABIT collars by changing the GPS antenna location, with a resultant substantial increase in field fix success (92.6%). Most collars ceased working before they reached 50% of their manufacturer-estimated life expectancy. Suboptimal placement of GPS antenna, combined with short satellite acquisition times and long fix intervals, were a likely cause of low fix-success rates and premature battery failures. Researchers wanting to employ lightweight GPS collars must be aware of current limitations and should carefully consider prospects of low fix rates and limited battery lives before deciding whether these units are capable of meeting study objectives.
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Vol. 74 • No. 8