Methods that allow unbiased estimation of animal abundance are increasingly demanded in management and conservation. The use of these methods should respect their assumptions. The need for accurate distance measurements in distance-sampling surveys is stressed. Here we present 2 alternative methods for measuring distance from a line to an object during helicopter surveys: 1) using a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit, with distances measured using appropriate software; and 2) recording declination angles and altitudes, using basic trigonometry to obtain the appropriate distances. These are compared to distances measured by a laser rangefinder (assumed to be true distances). The effect of the different errors on estimated densities is assessed by simulation. The GPS method appeared to be very accurate, while a potential downward bias in estimated density could be present if the inclinometer method is used. We discuss the implication for wildlife studies of using different measurement methods leading to different errors.
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