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Sign surveys can be more efficient and cost effective than driven transects and camera trapping: a comparison of detection methods for a small elusive mammal, the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus)

Seidlitz, A., Bryant, K.A., Armstrong, N.J.ORCID: 0000-0002-4477-293X, Calver, M.C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9082-2902 and Wayne, A.F. (2021) Sign surveys can be more efficient and cost effective than driven transects and camera trapping: a comparison of detection methods for a small elusive mammal, the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus). Wildlife Research . Online early.

Link to Published Version: https://doi.org/10.1071/WR20020
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Abstract

Aims: To compare efficacy and costing of driven transects, sign surveys and camera trapping for detecting numbats in the Upper Warren region, Western Australia.

Methods: Seven repeat sign surveys and driven transects, as well as 4 months of camera trapping, were conducted concurrently at 50 sites along three transects. Numbat detection rates and costing of the three techniques were compared, and detection probabilities were compared between sign surveys and camera trapping.

Key results: Numbat signs were detected during 88 surveys at 39 sites, exceeding camera trapping (26 detections at 13 sites) and driven transects (seven detections near five sites). The estimated probability for detecting a numbat or a sign thereof (at a site where numbats were present) ranged from 0.21 to 0.35 for a sign survey, and 0.02 to 0.06 for 7 days of camera trapping. Total survey costs were lowest for driven transects, followed by camera trapping and sign surveys. When expressed as cost per numbat detection, sign surveys were cheapest.

Conclusions: Comparative studies of survey methods are essential for optimal, cost-effective wildlife monitoring. Sign surveys were more successful and cost effective than camera trapping or driven transects for detecting numbats in the Upper Warren region. Together with occupancy modelling, sign surveys are appropriate to investigate changes in occupancy rates over time, which could serve as a metric for long-term numbat monitoring.

Implications: There is no ‘best’ method for wildlife surveys. Case-specific comparison of animal detection methods is recommended to ensure optimal methods. For the numbat population in the Upper Warren region, further studies are needed to improve numbat detection rates from camera trapping, and to test sign surveys in autumn (March to May), when surviving juvenile numbats have established their own territory and assumptions regarding population closure are less likely to be violated.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Mathematics, Statistics, Chemistry and Physics
Centre for Climate Impacted Terrestrial Ecosystems
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2021 CSIRO
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/60109
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