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Tuesday, January 26 • 3:40pm - 4:00pm
Errors in the Interpretation of Wildlife Sign At Survey Bait Stations

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AUTHORS: Sarah L. Mayhew*, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Dwayne R. Etter, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: Bait stations are a common tool in wildlife monitoring, whether to derive a visit rate as an index of population abundance or to mark individuals through an ingested marker. Assumptions of these techniques are violated if the interpretation of animal sign left at the station leads to incorrect identification of the visiting species. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) black bear tetracycline survey is a Lincoln-Petersen survey that relies on bait stations to attract bears and mark them through ingestion of tetracycline-laced bacon baits. The harvest serves as the recapture event, and marked bears are identified through screening of the cementum annuli of an extracted tooth under ultraviolet light. An accurate count of the number of marked bears in the population, and thus an unbiased population estimate, is possible only through proper interpretation of the sign left at the bait station to determine what species consumed the bait. We used motion-triggered cameras to monitor wildlife activity at bait stations to evaluate the accuracy of the interpretation of the field sign. In 2014 and 2015, field staff hung baits following the standard protocol of the DNR’s tetracycline survey and deployed cameras at a sample of sites. Staff used physical evidence at the bait sites to identify the species that consumed the baits. We reviewed photos from the bait stations and, whenever possible, identified the true fate of the bait based on the photographic evidence. We calculated error rates both for baits identified as consumed by bears and those identified as consumed by non-target species. We used the error rates to adjust the count of the number of marked bears and calculated population estimates with and without error correction. Uncorrected counts of the number of marked bears were biased high, which resulted in population estimates that were biased high.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 3:40pm - 4:00pm EST
Emerald A