Migrating Eagle Racks up Huge Cell Phone Bill for Researchers

Roaming charges can get pricey, even in the name of science. A team of Russian researchers are dealing with a huge cell phone bill after eagles they tagged with GPS unexpectedly flew out of range.

The scientists placed light weight, solar powered GPS devices on the backs of a group of endangered steppe eagles to monitor their flight paths and habitats. The units store coordinates, and when connected to a mobile network, the information is sent using SMS texting.

The purpose of using tracking devices that send text messages is to avoid the need to find the eagles to gather the data. Unfortunately, one migrating eagle named Min flew out of range in western Kazakhstan. Instead, he flew to Iran, and when his GPS connected to a cellular tower, his stored data was sent to the scientists, racking up hefty roaming charges.

Here's a map of Russian eagle migrations:

Along with three other birds who flew to Iraq and Pakistan, the cellular bills used up all of the study's funds, and the scientists had to take out a loan to pay the bills.

They set up a crowdfunding campaign on social media to help pay for the charges, which has fortunately worked, according to BBC. They've raised enough money to pay for their research until the end of the year. Also, the team's wireless carrier, MegaFon, is returning the cost of the Iranian texting fees, as well as making a "special tariff" to make tracking the eagles cheaper moving forward.

You can monitor the eagles yourself by using this tool on the Russian Raptors Research and Conservation Network website.