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Diversity 2016, 8(1), 3; doi:10.3390/d8010003

Identification and Density Estimation of American Martens (Martes americana) Using a Novel Camera-Trap Method

1
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA
2
DOI Northeast Climate Science Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Michael Wink
Received: 1 November 2015 / Revised: 31 December 2015 / Accepted: 7 January 2016 / Published: 12 January 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Camera Traps in Animal Ecology)
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Abstract

Camera-traps are increasingly used to estimate wildlife abundance, yet few studies exist for small-sized carnivores or comparing efficacy against traditional methods. We developed a camera-trap to identify the unique ventral patches of American martens (Martes americana). Our method was designed to: (1) determine the optimal trap configuration to photograph ventral patches; (2) evaluate the use of temporally clustered photographs to determine independence and improve identification; and (3) determine factors that influence identification probability. We tested our method by comparing camera- and live-trap density estimates using spatial capture–recapture (SCR) models. The ventral patches of radio-collared martens were most visible when traps were placed 15–20 cm above a feeding platform. Radio-collared martens (n = 14) visited camera-traps for long periods (median = 7 min) with long intervals between visits (median = 419 min), and visits by different martens at the same trap <15 min apart was infrequent (n = 3) during both years. Similarly, there was complete agreement among observers that clustered photos of un-collared martens were always of the same individual. Pairwise agreement was high between observers; eight un-collared martens were identifiable by consensus on 90% (54 of 60) of recorded visits. Factors influencing identification probability were directly related to the time martens spent feeding at traps (β = 0.143, P = 0.01) and inversely proportional to the time that elapsed since traps were baited (β = −0.344, P = 0.006). Density estimates were higher and more precise for camera-trapping (0.60, 0.35–1.01 martens/km2) than live-trapping (0.45, 0.16–1.22 martens/km2), providing evidence that SCR density estimates may be biased when capture heterogeneity is present, yet cannot be accounted for due to small sample size. Our camera-trap method provides a minimally invasive and accurate tool for monitoring marten populations. View Full-Text
Keywords: camera traps; American marten; spatial capture–recapture; wildlife survey methodology; identification probability camera traps; American marten; spatial capture–recapture; wildlife survey methodology; identification probability
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Sirén, A.P.K.; Pekins, P.J.; Abdu, P.L.; Ducey, M.J. Identification and Density Estimation of American Martens (Martes americana) Using a Novel Camera-Trap Method. Diversity 2016, 8, 3.

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