Effective monitoring of population size is critically important for endemic species with specialized habitat requirements so that timely remedial steps can be taken when declines are detected. We initiated a monitoring study of the endemic plethodontid salamander, Plethodon punctatus, which is generally found in talus habitats over 1000 m in elevation in a narrow range on Shenandoah Mountain on the border of Virginia and West Virginia. We tested congruence of nighttime visual encounter surveys (VES) and mark-recapture estimates of population size. VES was a valid index of the abundances of P. punctatus in the two habitats we surveyed. Sites on the eastern and western sides of Shenandoah Mountain were surveyed, and both methods estimated that population size on the west was approximately twice as high as that on the east. Individuals of this species exhibited a high degree of site fidelity. Cover object searches for species in talus habitats are expected to be of limited value, and we conclude that nighttime visual encounter surveys are most effective for population size monitoring of P. punctatus and other species that live in talus.
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