Survey data improve population management, yet those data often have associated bias. We quantified one source of bias in moose survey data (observer detection probability, p), by using repeated ground-observations of calves-at-heel of radio-collared moose in Colorado, USA. Detection probabilities, which varied both spatially and temporally, were estimated using an occupancy-modelling framework. We provide an efficient offset for modelled calf-at-heel occupancy (ψ) estimates that accommodates summer calf mortality. Detection probabilities were most efficiently modelled with seasonal variation, with the lowest probability of detecting calves-at-heel occurring during parturition (i.e. May) and later autumn periods (after August). Our most efficiently modelled detection probability estimate for summer was 0.80 (SE = 0.05). During the four years of this study, ψ estimates ranged from 0.54–0.84 (SE = 0.08–0.11). Accounting for 91.7% monthly calf survival corrected ψ estimates downward (ψ = 0.42–0.65). Our results suggest that repeated ground-based observations of individual cow moose, during summer months, can be can a cost-effective strategy for estimating a productivity parameter for moose. Ground survey results can be further improved by accounting for calf mortality.
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Vol. 2020 • No. 2