The recent development of multistate site occupancy models offers great opportunities to frame and solve decision problems for conservation that can be viewed in terms of site occupancy. These models have several characteristics (e.g., they account for detectability) that make them particularly well suited for addressing management and conservation problems. We applied multistate site occupancy models to evaluate hypotheses related to the conservation and management of Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) in Denali National Park, Alaska, and provided estimates of transition probabilities among three occupancy states for nesting areas (occupied with successful reproduction, occupied with unsuccessful reproduction, and unoccupied). Our estimation models included the effect of potential recreational activities (hikers) and environmental covariates such as a snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) index on transition probabilities among the three occupancy states. Based on the most parsimonious model, support for the hypothesis of an effect of potential human disturbance on site occupancy dynamics was equivocal. There was some evidence that potential human disturbance negatively affected local colonization of territories, but there was no evidence of an effect on reproductive performance parameters. In addition, models that assume a positive relationship between the hare index and successful reproduction were well supported by the data. The statistical approach that we used is particularly useful to parameterize management models that can then be used to make optimal decisions related to the management of Golden Eagles in Denali. Although in our case we were particularly interested in managing recreational activities, we believe that such models should be useful to for a broad class of management and conservation problems.
Additional publication details
Dynamic multistate site occupancy models to evaluate hypotheses relevant to conservation of Golden Eagles in Denali National Park, Alaska