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Determining the efficacy of camera traps, live capture traps, and detection dogs for locating cryptic small mammal species


Thomas, Morgan; Baker, Lynn; Beattie, James; Baker, Andrew (2021), Determining the efficacy of camera traps, live capture traps, and detection dogs for locating cryptic small mammal species, Dryad, Dataset,


Metal box (e.g., Elliott, Sherman) traps and remote cameras are two of the most commonly employed methods presently used to survey terrestrial mammals. However, their relative efficacy at accurately detecting cryptic small mammals has not been adequately assessed. The present study therefore compared the effectiveness of metal box (Elliott) traps and vertically oriented, close range, white flash camera traps in detecting small mammals occurring in the Scenic Rim of eastern Australia. We also conducted a preliminary survey to determine effectiveness of a conservation detection dog (CDD) for identifying presence of a threatened carnivorous marsupial, Antechinus arktos, in present-day and historical locations, using camera traps to corroborate detections. 200 Elliott traps and 20 white flash camera traps were set for four deployments per method, across a site where the target small mammals, including A. arktos, are known to occur. Camera traps produced higher detection probabilities than Elliott traps for all four species. Thus, vertically mounted white flash cameras were preferable for detecting the presence of cryptic small mammals in our survey. The CDD, which had been trained to detect A. arktos scat, indicated in total 31 times when deployed in the field survey area, with subsequent camera trap deployments specifically corroborating A. arktos presence at 100% (3) indication locations. Importantly, the dog indicated twice within Border Ranges National Park, where historical (1980s-1990s) specimen-based records indicate the species was present, but extensive Elliott and camera trapping over the last 5-10 years have resulted in zero A. arktos captures. Camera traps subsequently corroborated A. arktos presence at these sites. This demonstrates that detection dogs can be a highly effective means of locating threatened, cryptic species, especially when traditional methods are unable to detect low-density mammal populations.