The white-tailed deer is an important game species in Finland. We evaluated the potential of estimating the white-tailed deer pre-harvest density using non-invasive DNA collection within a spatial capture–recapture (SCR) framework. We sampled faeces during three weekly visits in autumn 2015 from 180, 20 × 20 m plots clustered in groups of four. Individual identification was based on 12–14 microsatellites. Of the 245 faecal samples collected, an individual could be identified from only 36 (15%). We identified 27 white-tailed deer individuals of which seven were recaptured. The SCR model produced a plausible density estimate (3.5 indiv. km–2) which was similar to estimates based on dung count and large-scale national estimates, although a posteriori simulation showed the SCR estimate was likely positive biased. Although we found that SCR based on faecal DNA can provide pre-harvest density estimates of the white-tailed deer, the approach is not without challenges and we discuss these suggesting possible solutions.
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Vol. 56 • No. 1-6