We assessed the detection and accuracy rates of detection dogs trained to locate scats from free-ranging black bears (Ursus americanus), fishers (Martes pennanti), and bobcats (Lynx rufus). During the summers of 2003–2004, 5 detection teams located 1,565 scats (747 putative black bear, 665 putative fisher, and 153 putative bobcat) at 168 survey sites throughout Vermont, USA. Of 347 scats genetically analyzed for species identification, 179 (51.6%) yielded a positive identification, 131 (37.8%) failed to yield DNA information, and 37 (10.7%) yielded DNA but provided no species confirmation. For 70 survey sites where confirmation of a putative target species' scat was not possible, we assessed the probability that ≥1 of the scats collected at the site was deposited by the target species (probability of correct identification; PID). Based on species confirmations or PID values, we detected bears at 57.1% (96) of sites, fishers at 61.3% (103) of sites, and bobcats at 12.5% (21) of sites. We estimated that the mean probability of detecting the target species (when present) during a single visit to a site was 0.86 for black bears, 0.95 for fishers, and 0.40 for bobcats. The probability of detecting black bears was largely unaffected by site- or visit-specific covariates, but the probability of detecting fishers varied by detection team. We found little or no effect of topographic ruggedness, vegetation density, or local weather (e.g., temp, humidity) on detection probability for fishers or black bears (data were insufficient for bobcat analyses). Detection dogs were highly effective at locating scats from forest carnivores and provided an efficient and accurate method for collecting detection–nondetection data on multiple species.
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Vol. 71 • No. 6