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The isolated gray wolf (Canis lupus) population of the Scandinavian Peninsular is suffering from inbreeding depression. We studied dispersal of 35 wolves fitted with very high frequency (20) or Global Positioning System–global system for mobile (15) radiocollars in the neighboring Finnish wolf population. The growing wolf population in Finland has high numbers of dispersing individuals that could potentially disperse into the Scandinavian population. About half (53%) of the dispersing wolves moved total distances that could have reached the Scandinavian population if they had been straight-line moves, but because of the irregular pattern of movements, we detected no wolves successfully dispersing to the Scandinavian population. Dispersal to the Scandinavian population was also limited by high mortality of wolves in reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) management areas and by dispersal to Bothnian Bay at times of the year when ice was not present. We suggest that when a small wolf population is separated from source populations by distance, barriers, and human exploitation, wildlife managers could promote the population's viability by limiting harvest in the peripheral areas or by introducing wolves from the source population.
Given recent actions to increase sustained yield of moose (Alces alces) in Alaska, USA, we examined factors affecting yield and moose demographics and discussed related management. Prior studies concluded that yield and density of moose remain low in much of Interior Alaska and Yukon, Canada, despite high moose reproductive rates, because of predation from lightly harvested grizzly (Ursus arctos) and black bear (U. americanus) and wolf (Canis lupus) populations. Our study area, Game Management Unit (GMU) 20A, was also in Interior Alaska, but we describe elevated yield and density of moose. Prior to our study, a wolf control program (1976–1982) helped reverse a decline in the moose population. Subsequent to 1975, moose numbers continued a 28-year, 7-fold increase through the initial 8 years of our study (λB1 = 1.05 during 1996–2004, peak density = 1,299 moose/1,000 km2). During these initial 8 hunting seasons, reported harvest was composed primarily of males (x̄ = 88%). Total harvest averaged 5% of the prehunt population and 57 moose/1,000 km2, the highest sustained harvest-density recorded in Interior Alaska for similar-sized areas. In contrast, sustained total harvests of <10 moose/1,000 km2 existed among low-density, predator-limited moose populations in Interior Alaska (≤417 moose/1,000 km2). During the final 3 years of our study (2004–2006), moose numbers declined (λB2 = 0.96) as intended using liberal harvests of female and male moose (x̄ = 47%) that averaged 7% of the prehunt population and 97 moose/1,000 km2. We intentionally reduced high densities in the central half of GMU 20A (up to 1,741 moose/1,000 km2 in Nov) because moose were reproducing at the lowest rate measured among wild, noninsular North American populations. Calf survival was uniquely high in GMU 20A compared with 7 similar radiocollaring studies in Alaska and Yukon. Low predation was the proximate factor that allowed moose in GMU 20A to increase in density and sustain elevated yields. Bears killed only 9% of the modeled postcalving moose population annually in GMU 20A during 1996–2004, in contrast to 18–27% in 3 studies of low-density moose populations. Thus, outside GMU 20A, higher bear predation rates can create challenges for those desiring rapid increases in sustained yield of moose. Wolves killed 8–15% of the 4 postcalving moose populations annually (10% in GMU 20A), hunters killed 2–6%, and other factors killed 1–6%. Annually during the increase phase in GMU 20A, calf moose constituted 75% of the predator-killed moose and predators killed 4 times more moose than hunters killed. Wolf predation on calves remained largely additive at the high moose densities studied in GMU 20A. Sustainable harvest-densities of moose can be increased several-fold in most areas of Interior Alaska where moose density and moose:predator ratios are lower than in GMU 20A and nutritional status is higher. Steps include 1) reducing predation sufficient to allow the moose population to grow, and 2) initiating harvest of female moose to halt population growth and maximize harvest after density-dependent moose nutritional indices reach or approach the thresholds we previously published.
Off-road recreation on public lands in North America has increased dramatically in recent years. Wild ungulates are sensitive to human activities, but the effect of off-road recreation, both motorized and nonmotorized, is poorly understood. We measured responses of elk (Cervus elaphus) to recreational disturbance in northeast Oregon, USA, from April to October, 2003 and 2004. We subjected elk to 4 types of recreational disturbance: all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding, mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding. Motion sensors inside radiocollars worn by 13 female elk recorded resting, feeding, and travel activities at 5-minute intervals throughout disturbance and control periods. Elk fed and rested during control periods, with little time spent traveling. Travel time increased in response to all 4 disturbances and was highest in mornings. Elk travel time was highest during ATV exposure, followed by exposure to mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding. Feeding time decreased during ATV exposure and resting decreased when we subjected elk to mountain biking and hiking disturbance in 2003. Our results demonstrated that activities of elk can be substantially affected by off-road recreation. Mitigating these effects may be appropriate where elk are a management priority. Balancing management of species like elk with off-road recreation will become increasingly important as off-road recreational uses continue to increase on public lands in North America.
The expansion of the cellulosic biofuels industry throughout the United States has broad-scale implications for wildlife management on public and private lands. Knowledge is limited on the effects of reverting agriculture to native grass, and vice versa, on size of home range and habitat use of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). We followed 68 radiocollared female deer from 1991 through 2004 that were residents of DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR) in eastern Nebraska, USA. The refuge was undergoing conversion of vegetation out of row-crop agriculture and into native grass, forest, and emergent aquatic vegetation. Habitat in DNWR consisted of 30% crop in 1991 but removing crops to establish native grass and wetland habitat at DNWR resulted in a 44% reduction in crops by 2004. A decrease in the amount of crops on DNWR contributed to a decline in mean size of annual home range from 400 ha in 1991 to 200 ha in 2005 but percentage of crops in home ranges increased from 21% to 29%. Mean overlap for individuals was 77% between consecutive annual home ranges across 8 years, regardless of crop availability. Conversion of crop to native habitat will not likely result in home range abandonment but may impact disease transmission by increasing rates of contact between deer social groups that occupy adjacent areas. Future research on condition indices or changes in population parameters (e.g., recruitment) could be incorporated into the study design to assess impacts of habitat conversion for biofuel production.
Prey behavioral responses to predation risk in wolf–ungulate–plant systems are of interest to wildlife managers. Using Global Positioning System data collected from telemetry-collared elk (Cervus elaphus) and wolves (Canis lupus), we evaluated elk behavioral responses to spatial and temporal variation in wolf- and human-predation risk on a winter range in the Greater Yellowstone Area, USA. We found elk changed grouping patterns and increased movement rates as predation risk increased and that these behavioral changes were habitat dependent. Elk behavioral responses to wolf- and human-predation risk were similar; however, responses to human-predation risk were stronger than responses to wolf-predation risk. These results suggest that predation risk from wolves or human hunters may result in elk spending more time on private rangelands away from public-land winter ranges, which may exacerbate problems of landowner tolerance of elk on livestock pastures. However, increased movement and changing grouping patterns on winter ranges may also disperse elk grazing impacts and lessen elk impacts on any one area.
Behavioral studies of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) often assign mother–offspring relationships based on common capture of juveniles with adult deer, assuming that fawns associate closely with mothers. We tested this assumption using genetic parentage to assess mother–offspring relationships within capture groups based on data from 10 polymorphic microsatellite loci. At the 80% confidence level, we assigned maternity to 43% and 51% of juveniles captured with an adult female in 2 respective study areas. Capture with their mother did not differ by sex of juveniles in either study area, and limiting our analysis to capture groups that most represent family groups (i.e., one ad F with 1–3 juv) did not increase maternity assignment (35%). Our results indicate that common capture may be a poor indicator of mother–offspring relationships in many field settings. We recommend genetic verification of family relationships.
We used nucleotide sequence data from a mitochondrial DNA fragment to characterize variation within the endangered Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri). We observed 5 unique mitochondrial haplotypes across different sampling sites in the Lower Florida Keys, USA. Based on the frequency of these haplotypes at different geographic locations and relationships among haplotypes, we observed 2 distinct clades or groups of sampling sites (western and eastern clades). These 2 groups showed low levels of gene flow. Regardless of their origin, marsh rabbits from the Lower Florida Keys can be separated into 2 genetically distinct management units, which should be considered prior to implementation of translocations as a means of offsetting recent population declines.
We evaluated the potential for interspecific competition for forage between huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) and livestock in Los Alerces National Park, Argentina. We studied winter diets based on microhistological analysis of fecal samples. Huemul selected herbs and shrubs, sheep showed preference for herbs and grasses, and cattle selected grasses. As predicted for small-bodied species, huemul had a narrower dietary niche than did larger bodied cattle. Competition for forage would be more likely between huemul and sheep than between huemul and cattle. Our results might be helpful to managers in areas where domestic and wild ungulates live in sympatry in order to reduce competition, especially in wintering areas where food is scarce.
We examined a suite of models in an information theoretic framework to identify factors restricting presence of the endangered Key Largo woodrat (Neotoma floridana smalli) throughout its remaining habitat. Models containing variables related to availability of nest sites and mammalian predator abundances were supported by our data. Abundance of natural (large overstory trees) and artificial (rock and debris piles) nest substrate were the most important predictor variables, followed by indices of feral cat and raccoon (Procyon lotor) abundance. We recommend increasing abundance of nest substrate in the short term through addition of artificial nest substrate and in the long term through continued protection of remaining forest habitat.
Movements of wolves (Canis lupus) during summer 2003 and 2004 in the Superior National Forest were based around homesites but included extensive use of territories. Away from homesites, wolves used different areas daily, exhibiting rotational use. Mean daily range overlap was 22% (SE = 0.02) and that of breeding wolves was significantly greater than for nonbreeders (x̄ = 25% and 16%, respectively). Rotational use may improve hunting success. Managers seeking to remove entire packs must maintain control long enough to ensure that all pack members are targeted.
In an effort to reduce goose depredation at a traditional spring migratory stopover site, private landowners implemented a coordinated hazing plan to scare Aleutian cackling geese (Branta hutchinsii leucopareia) from private lands to adjacent public pastures that were cultivated and set aside specifically for geese. Coincidentally, some Aleutian geese began using a new stopover site 150 km farther south in their spring migratory range; numbers at the new site continue to increase. We tested the idea that when their ability to acquire resources deteriorates geese are likely to seek improved foraging conditions, especially during spring migration when individuals strive to maximize nutrient stores and minimize energy expenditure. We quantified measures of goose foraging performance in traditional and new spring staging sites by calculating foraging opportunity, foraging effort, body condition, and daily energy expenditure. Geese staging at the site with higher levels of human disturbance had less foraging opportunity and, despite increased foraging effort and more nutritious food-plants at the site, birds there experienced an elevated energy expenditure and poorer body condition than birds at the new stopover site. Reduced foraging time and increased energy expenditure at the traditional spring staging site may have triggered the colonization process. Suitability assessment of habitat for migratory geese should include measures of foraging opportunity, disturbance risks, and daily energy expenditure in addition to quantity and quality of foods.
Current methods for conducting ground-based surveys of breeding waterfowl pairs make the unlikely assumption that detection probabilities are constant and approach 100%. To test this assumption, we conducted independent double-observer pair surveys in North Dakota, USA, to evaluate sources of variation in detection probabilities for 8 common species of prairie-nesting ducks. An experienced observer had 0.911 detection probability averaged over all 8 species (range = 0.866–0.944) versus 0.790 (range = 0.537–0.890) for a novice observer. Detection probabilities also varied substantially among species, but patterns were not consistent between observers. Detection probabilities declined as number of ducks per wetland increased, presumably due to difficulty in identifying large numbers of flushing ducks. Other covariates affecting detection probabilities included size of social groups, precipitation, survey methodology (roadside vs. walk-up), cloud cover, time of day, and amount of wetland vegetation, but these covariates only affected detection probabilities by 2–5%. Our results demonstrated that the assumption of 100% detection probabilities for ground-based waterfowl counts was clearly false and surveys based on this erroneous assumption underestimated population size by 10–29%. We recommend that future investigators measure detection probabilities explicitly by using double-observer methodologies.
Incidental seabird mortality associated with bycatch during longline commercial fishing is a conservation concern. An initial step to estimating likelihood of seabird bycatch and conceiving conservation strategies is determining amount of overlap between foraging birds and commercial fishing effort, identifying oceanographic features associated with foraging birds, and quantifying dive characteristics. We tracked 24 adult flesh-footed shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) breeding on Lord Howe Island located east of Australia during incubation and early and late chick-rearing periods from 6 January to 17 April 2005. At-sea foraging distribution of flesh-footed shearwaters was primarily confined within the jurisdictional Australian Fishing Zone. Foraging was strongly associated with sea-surface temperature >24° C. Spatial and temporal overlap of longline fishing with foraging shearwaters varied throughout the breeding season, but was greatest (63% overlap) during early chick-rearing. Mean maximum distance reached from the breeding colony during a foraging event was 804 km (SD = 280) from Lord Howe Island. Foraging behavior was strongly diurnal, with 91% of dives occurring during daylight, and most dives (77%) were <5 m. Given that longline fishing and flesh-footed shearwaters overlap substantially, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority should consider implementing additional regulations to further reduce bycatch. Conservation strategies such as setting longlines at nights may reduce flesh-footed shearwater bycatch.
We evaluated hypotheses concerning temporal, landscape, and habitat effects on nest survival of golden-cheeked warblers (Dendroica chrysoparia) in an urban and a rural landscape during the breeding seasons of 2005 and 2006 in central Texas, USA. We found support for temporal effects of year and cubic effect of date and included them in candidate models that evaluated habitat and landscape effects. Nest survival was lower in 2006 than in 2005 and decreased nonlinearly as the breeding season progressed. We found support for edge effects with decreased nest survival nearer edges and in areas with increased open edge density (wooded habitat abutting open habitat) or decreased trail density. However, confidence intervals for the model-averaged odds ratios overlapped 1.0 for all edge variables. Overall daily survival rate was 0.964 (95% CI = 0.949–0.975), resulting in a 25-day period survival of 0.398 (95% CI = 0.269–0.524). Period survival in Austin's urban landscape (0.399, 95% CI = 0.270–0.526) was similar to survival in Fort Hood's rural landscape (0.396, 95% CI = 0.261–0.528). Both landscapes likely support self-sustaining populations based on reasonable assumptions for adult survival and number of nesting attempts. We suggest that some large urban preserves can provide breeding habitat of comparable quality to rural locations and recommend protecting large parcels (>100 ha) of breeding habitat with limited fragmentation and reducing the amount of wooded edge abutting open habitat to ensure nest survival regardless of their landscape context.
Laysan ducks (Anas laysanensis) are restricted to approximately 9 km2 in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, USA. To evaluate the importance of density dependence for Laysan ducks, we conducted a Bayesian analysis to estimate the parameters of a Gompertz model and the magnitude of process variation and observation error based on the fluctuations in Laysan duck abundance on Laysan Island from 1994 to 2007. This model described a stationary distribution for the population at carrying capacity that fluctuates around a long-term mean of 456 ducks and is between 316 to 636 ducks 95% of the time. This range of expected variability can be used to identify changes in population size that warn of catastrophic events. Density-dependent population dynamics may explain the recovery of Laysan duck from catastrophic declines and allow managers to identify population monitoring thresholds.
Short-distance translocation (SDT) is commonly used to mitigate snake–human interactions, yet little is known about its effectiveness or its effects on behavior and welfare of snakes. Between April 2004 and October 2005, we evaluated SDT as a conservation and management tool by investigating how 500-m SDT affected spatial ecology, body condition, and behavior of western rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus) surgically implanted with radiotransmitters in a field study near Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada. Of 14 rattlesnakes subjected to SDT, 12 (85.7%) returned on ≥1 occasion (range 1–7 times) to the general area they were removed from. Rattlesnakes that underwent SDT showed an increase in total distance moved over an active season compared to non-translocated snakes, but there was no evidence to suggest SDT had an effect on activity range size. There was no evidence to suggest SDT affected body condition, behavior, or mortality rates. Short-distance translocation to high-quality undisturbed habitats was unsuccessful as a long-term solution to snake–human conflict because most translocated snakes returned to conflict areas within a short time (x̄ = 19.9 ± 8.7 days). However, SDT may be an effective short-term tool to manage snake–human conflict in areas where human presence is seasonal or short-lived if careful attention is paid to species-specific biological needs, habitat quality at the release site, and the location of the release site in relation to conflict areas.
In many research projects, reliability of collected data is dependent on reliability of field observers. However, it is uncommon for observer reliability to be either measured or reported in wildlife research. We tested whether observer skill affected outcomes of a northern river otter (Lontra canadensis) track survey conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Observers recorded presence of tracks at bridge sites (n = 250) throughout a 27-county region in east Texas, USA. Logistic regression indicated that observers were significantly associated with frequency of reported otter tracks. Because observers were not assigned to bridges at random, we tested and found associations between the bridges surveyed by each observer (SURVEY ROUTE) and habitat variables (WATERSHED, VEGETATION-TYPE, WATER-TYPE, BRIDGE-AREA) that may have influenced otter presence and probability of detection. A standardized tracker evaluation procedure indicated that experienced observers (n = 7) misidentified 37% of otter tracks. Additionally, 26% of tracks from species determined to be “otter-like” were misidentified as otter tracks. We recommend that observer skill in identification of animal tracks and other indirect signs be measured to detect and reduce observer errors in wildlife monitoring.
Numerous techniques have been proposed to estimate carnivore abundance and density, but few have been validated against populations of known size. We used a density estimate established by intensive monitoring of a population of radiotagged leopards (Panthera pardus) with a detection probability of 1.0 to evaluate efficacy of track counts and camera-trap surveys as population estimators. We calculated densities from track counts using 2 methods and compared performance of 10 methods for calculating the effectively sampled area for camera-trapping data. Compared to our reference density (7.33 ± 0.44 leopards/100 km2), camera-trapping generally produced more accurate but less precise estimates than did track counts. The most accurate result (6.97 ± 1.88 leopards/100 km2) came from camera-trap data with a sampled area buffered by a boundary strip representing the mean maximum distance moved by leopards outside the survey area (MMDMOSA) established by telemetry. However, contrary to recent suggestions, the traditional method of using half the mean maximum distance moved from photographic recaptures did not result in gross overestimates of population density (6.56 ± 1.92 leopards/100 km2) but rather displayed the next best performance after MMDMOSA. The only track-count method comparable to reference density employed a capture–recapture framework applied to data when individuals were identified from their tracks (6.45 ± 1.43 leopards/100 km2) but the underlying assumptions of this technique limit more widespread application. Our results demonstrate that if applied correctly, camera-trap surveys represent the best balance of rigor and cost-effectiveness for estimating abundance and density of cryptic carnivore species that can be identified individually.
The sex-age-kill (SAK) model is widely used to estimate abundance of harvested large mammals, including white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Despite a long history of use, few formal evaluations of SAK performance exist. We investigated how violations of the stable age distribution and stationary population assumption, changes to male or female harvest, stochastic effects (i.e., random fluctuations in recruitment and survival), and sampling efforts influenced SAK estimation. When the simulated population had a stable age distribution and λ > 1, the SAK model underestimated abundance. Conversely, when λ < 1, the SAK overestimated abundance. When changes to male harvest were introduced, SAK estimates were opposite the true population trend. In contrast, SAK estimates were robust to changes in female harvest rates. Stochastic effects caused SAK estimates to fluctuate about their equilibrium abundance, but the effect dampened as the size of the surveyed population increased. When we considered both stochastic effects and sampling error at a deer management unit scale the resultant abundance estimates were within ±121.9% of the true population level 95% of the time. These combined results demonstrate extreme sensitivity to model violations and scale of analysis. Without changes to model formulation, the SAK model will be biased when λ ≠ 1. Furthermore, any factor that alters the male harvest rate, such as changes to regulations or changes in hunter attitudes, will bias population estimates. Sex-age-kill estimates may be precise at large spatial scales, such as the state level, but less so at the individual management unit level. Alternative models, such as statistical age-at-harvest models, which require similar data types, might allow for more robust, broad-scale demographic assessments.
Global Positioning System (GPS) collars have proven to be an efficient tool for studying wildlife. However, this technique generally requires great investment in material, which notwithstanding its possible cost-effectiveness, is still beyond the means of most of the scientific community in developing countries. We developed and applied a low-cost GPS harness system placed on pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus) in the Central Pantanal of Brazil and compared costs of our technique to other commonly manufactured GPS collar systems. Of the 19 GPS harness attached to deer, 8 failed to obtain data series. For the remaining 11 animals, we stored 31,596 locations at 5-minute and 10-minute fix interval schedules (>120 days of continuous monitoring). Monitoring period of each animal lasted from 4.5 days to 17.4 days. Location error tested with a stationary GPS receiver was <3.7 m for 95% of locations. Rate of fixes acquired on the programmed schedule after correcting for errors was 98.5%. Compared to the 4 most used GPS radiocollar manufacturers, cost per fix of the GPS harness we developed was <50% of the cost per fix of the cheapest available product, although our modified device was heavier than all available products for medium-sized deer. Our approach was cost-effective to generate reliable information about activity patterns of pampas deer and may represent an alternative technique, especially for researchers in underdeveloped countries.
Chemical markers are increasingly used to investigate consumption of baits used to deliver vaccines, toxicants, and contraceptives. We evaluated whether ethyl-iophenoxic acid (Et-IPA) and propyl-iophenoxic acid (Pr-IPA) can be used as long-lasting systemic bait markers for wild boar (Sus scrofa). We presented captive wild boar with baits treated with either Et-IPA or Pr-IPA at 5 mg/kg (low dose), 10 mg/kg (medium dose), and 20 mg/kg (high dose) of body weight. We collected serum from each boar at 5 time points: 5 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 11 weeks, and 39 weeks following ingestion of iophenoxic acid–treated baits. We detected both Et-IPA and Pr-IPA for ≥39 weeks after ingestion. Throughout the trial, the Et-IPA we found in serum was proportional to the amount eaten. At each time point, animals in the high-dose group had significantly more Et-IPA than animals in the low-dose group. We concluded that both compounds can be used as long-lasting markers in wild boar and that Et-IPA can also be employed as quantitative marker to indicate multiple bait uptake. Both compounds have potential applications in the context of vaccination, fertility, and population control campaigns, where baits are used to deliver pharmaceuticals, and in behavioral studies to establish spatial and temporal patterns of bait uptake.
Body condition of ungulates is a determinant of fecundity and survival rates. Ultrasonography and body condition scoring techniques allow reliable estimation of body fat but may not be feasible to employ in some circumstances. A reliable blood chemistry index for assessing relative condition of different ungulate populations or groups would be useful in ongoing population monitoring programs. We provided a nutrition supplement (treatment) to a group of free-ranging mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) during 2 consecutive winters in southwest Colorado. In late February each year, we evaluated whether percent body fat and serum concentrations of total thyroxine (T4), total triiodothyronine (T3), free thyroxine (FT4), and free triiodothyronine (FT3) were higher among treatment deer than an adjacent group of deer that did not receive treatment (control). As a corroborative analysis, we modeled body fat as a function of thyroid hormone concentrations and morphometric variables. Estimated body fat of treatment deer averaged 12.3% (SE = 0.327), whereas estimated body fat of control deer averaged 7.0% (SE = 0.333) during the 2 winters of study. Concentrations of T4 and FT4 averaged 48.07 nanomole/L (SE = 3.80) and 12.61 picomole/L (SE = 1.04) higher, respectively, in treatment deer than control deer. Our optimal model of estimated body fat included T4, T42, FT4, and deer chest girth ( = −4.8015 − 0.0946 × T4 0.000603 × T42 0.1474 × FT4 0.1426 × chest girth, R2 = 0.609). Serum thyroid hormones effectively discerned treatment deer from control deer and were related to estimated body fat. Ultrasound and body condition scoring should be used to estimate body fat whenever possible. However, in cases where only a blood sample can be obtained, we documented potential utility of T4 and FT4 during late winter for evaluating relative body condition of mule deer.
Unbiased estimates of mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) populations are key to meeting diverse harvest management and conservation objectives. We developed logistic regression models of factors influencing sightability of mountain goat groups during helicopter surveys throughout the Cascades and Olympic Ranges in western Washington during summers, 2004–2007. We conducted 205 trials of the ability of aerial survey crews to detect groups of mountain goats whose presence was known based on simultaneous direct observation from the ground (n = 84), Global Positioning System (GPS) telemetry (n = 115), or both (n = 6). Aerial survey crews detected 77% and 79% of all groups known to be present based on ground observers and GPS collars, respectively. The best models indicated that sightability of mountain goat groups was a function of the number of mountain goats in a group, presence of terrain obstruction, and extent of overstory vegetation. Aerial counts of mountain goats within groups did not differ greatly from known group sizes, indicating that under-counting bias within detected groups of mountain goats was small. We applied Horvitz–Thompson-like sightability adjustments to 1,139 groups of mountain goats observed in the Cascade and Olympic ranges, Washington, USA, from 2004 to 2007. Estimated mean sightability of individual animals was 85% but ranged 0.75–0.91 in areas with low and high sightability, respectively. Simulations of mountain goat surveys indicated that precision of population estimates adjusted for sightability biases increased with population size and number of replicate surveys, providing general guidance for the design of future surveys. Because survey conditions, group sizes, and habitat occupied by goats vary among surveys, we recommend using sightability correction methods to decrease bias in population estimates from aerial surveys of mountain goats.