Density of wildlife populations is a key variable for management, yet reliable estimation is elusive. We tested one established method (trapping webs and distance analysis) and one novel method (inverse prediction from capture–recapture data) on a population of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) whose density also could be determined by exhaustive removal. The study area was approximately 315 ha of coastal plantation forest surrounded on 3 sides by sand and water. We placed 4 lines of 9 cage traps at 20-m spacing in a square to form a “hollow grid.” We set 5 hollow grids, each comprising 36 traps, for 5 days; we tagged and released possums. We later set 5 trapping webs of 50 traps each at the same sites; we caught possums and removed them over 4 days. Wide-area removal used a combination of acute poisoning and leghold trapping. The estimate of density by inverse prediction (1.88/ha, SE = 0.26) was consistent with the removal estimate (2.27/ha), whereas estimates from trapping webs were positively biased (6.5 to 8.0/ha, depending on method of analysis). The inverse prediction method frees capture–recapture from the straitjacket of conventional grids and should allow accurate landscape-scale estimation of density once the requisite trapping effort is identified.
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