Evaluating camera traps as an alternative to live trapping for estimating the density of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) and red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Petra Villette, Charles J. Krebs, Thomas S. Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Live trapping is one of the methods typically used to estimate population densities of small mammals, but this is labor-intensive and can be stressful to individuals. We assess the use of camera trap hit (detection) rates as a noninvasive alternative to live trapping for estimating population densities of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus (Erxleben, 1777)) and red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Erxleben, 1777))—two common small (≤1.5 kg) mammal species in the boreal forests of northern North America. We compared hit rates from camera trapping to live trapping mark-recapture density estimates and asked if the hit window—the length of time used to group consecutive videos together as single detections or “hits”—has an effect on the correlation between hit rates and live trapping density estimates. The relationship between hit rate and population density was sensitive to hit window duration for red squirrels with R2 values ranging from 0.41 to 0.68, and a 5-min hit window generated the highest value. R2 values for snowshoe hares ranged from 0.70 to 0.90, and a 10-min hit window generated the highest value, but hares were live trapped and filmed only at very low densities. Our results indicate that camera trapping is a robust means for estimating the density of red squirrels, but the appropriate hit window duration must be determined empirically if camera trapping data are to be used to monitor populations of this species. Additional live trapping and filming of snowshoe hares is required to better assess camera trapping of this species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Wildlife Research
Volume63
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

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