Mark-recapture methods used in population demography studies involve marking of animals, such as tagging, notching, and tattooing. These techniques are invasive and potentially harmful to the animals. Photo-identification using natural animal markings is less invasive and has become more widely used for a range of taxa including invertebrates, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. During 2016 and 2017, we studied the demographics of the Rio Grande Cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi) using traditional mark-recapture techniques (i.e., shell notching and toe clipping). However, P. gorzugi displays plastral marks that could potentially be used for individual recognition. Because the photo-identification process ‘by-eye' is time consuming, we tested the efficiency of three pieces of software, I3S Pattern , Wild.ID, and APHIS, for individual identification of P. gorzugi using plastron pattern. Matching results of each program were generated into ranks with the 1st rank being the most likely match. Within the top 20 ranked images, Wild.ID yielded the highest number of correct matches (83.87%), followed by APHIS (ITM; 69.35%), APHIS (SPM; 67.74%), and I3S Pattern (61.29%). We found the quality of photos significantly contributed to the software effectiveness; however, turtle age and plastron wear did not affect the accuracy of the photo-identification software. We concluded that Wild.ID can be used as a non-invasive photo-recognition technique for P. gorzugi in a short-term population study.
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Vol. 106 • No. 4