Assessing estimators of feral goat (Capra hircus) abundance

  • John Paul Tracey

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    (1) Reliable measures of population abundance are essential for managing wildlife effectively. Aerial surveys provide a rapid and efficient means of surveying large mammals and many techniques have been developed to adjust for the inability to count all animals within transects. The probability of detection varies according to a range of factors which are important to consider when estimating density. Standardised survey methods developed in flat country are not readily transferable to steep terrain due to safety, access and difficulties delineating transect widths. Other methods have logistic constraints and must adhere to various other assumptions. (2) Density estimators are seldom examined using actual population size, hence their ability to correct for true bias is unknown. Studies that compare techniques are difficult to interpret because of the uncertainty of adherence to their respective assumptions. Factors influencing detection probability, estimators that correct for bias, the validity of their assumptions and how these relate to true density are important considerations for selecting suitable methods. The aim of this study was to obtain accurate and reliable methods for estimating the density of feral goats by improving predictions of detection probability, investigating the assumptions of aerial surveys, and examining the accuracy of 15 density estimators by comparing with total counts of feral goats. (3) Group size, vegetation and observer were the most important factors influencing the probability of observing a group of goats during aerial surveys. However, different approaches to analysing these data influenced the significance of variables and the predicted probabilities. Goat colour, type of helicopter, site and rear observer experience in hours were also found to be significant (P
    Date of Award2004
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorLarry Hone (Supervisor) & Will Osborne (Supervisor)

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