Capture-recapture of white-tailed deer using DNA from fecal pellet-groups

Wildlife Biology
By: , and 



Traditional methods for estimating white-tailed deer population size and density are affected by behavioral biases, poor detection in densely forested areas, and invalid techniques for estimating effective trapping area. We evaluated a noninvasive method of capture—recapture for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) density estimation using DNA extracted from fecal pellets as an individual marker and for gender determination, coupled with a spatial detection function to estimate density (spatially explicit capture—recapture, SECR). We collected pellet groups from 11 to 22 January 2010 at randomly selected sites within a 1-km2 area located on Arnold Air Force Base in Coffee and Franklin counties, Tennessee. We searched 703 10-m radius plots and collected 352 pellet-group samples from 197 plots over five two-day sampling intervals. Using only the freshest pellets we recorded 140 captures of 33 different animals (15M:18F). Male and female densities were 1.9 (SE = 0.8) and 3.8 (SE = 1.3) deer km-2, or a total density of 5.8 deer km-2 (14.9 deer mile-2). Population size was 20.8 (SE = 7.6) over a 360-ha area, and sex ratio was 1.0 M: 2.0 F (SE = 0.71). We found DNA sampling from pellet groups improved deer abundance, density and sex ratio estimates in contiguous landscapes which could be used to track responses to harvest or other management actions.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Capture-recapture of white-tailed deer using DNA from fecal pellet-groups
Series title Wildlife Biology
DOI 10.2981/wlb.00050
Volume 20
Issue 5
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Nordic Council of Wildlife Research
Publisher location Rønde, Denmark
Contributing office(s) Leetown Science Center
Description 9 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Wildlife Biology
First page 270
Last page 278
Country United States
State Tennessee
County Coffee, Franklin
Other Geospatial Arnold Air Force Base
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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