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1 February 2007 Unveiling the Limitations of Scat Surveys to Monitor Social Species: A Case Study on River Otters
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Abstract

We examined the relationship between the production of sites with feces (i.e., latrines) and river otter (Lontra canadensis) abundance to determine whether scat surveys were adequate for monitoring relative population size for species leaving activity signs in a clumped distribution on the landscape. We conducted winter riparian transects to simultaneously monitor otter abundance via snow tracks and latrine sites along the rivers of Kouchibouguac National Park and surrounding area in New Brunswick, Canada. Our data showed that latrine abundance poorly reflected otter abundance for given stretches of rivers because the relationship was nonlinear and reached a plateau. The number of latrine sites was not related to the time period since last snowfall, which indicated that otters repetitively defecated at the same sites. Individual otters and groups did not produce activity signs over larger distances as a function of time, which indicated that they tend to stay in their home ranges in winter. We discuss why scat survey protocols based on determining presence–absence of a species at predetermined search sites may poorly reflect population size, as well as population fluctuations in time. Caution is advised when interpreting data from such surveys for species for which feces or other activity signs surveyed play a role in intraspecific communication and tend to be in a clumped distribution on the landscape.

DANIEL GALLANT, LIETTE VASSEUR, and CÉLINE H. BÉRUBÉ "Unveiling the Limitations of Scat Surveys to Monitor Social Species: A Case Study on River Otters," Journal of Wildlife Management 71(1), 258-265, (1 February 2007). https://doi.org/10.2193/2005-697
Published: 1 February 2007
JOURNAL ARTICLE
8 PAGES

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