How does spatial study design influence density estimates from spatial capture-recapture models?
Belant, Jerrold L.
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When estimating population density from data collected on non-invasive detector arrays, recently developed spatial capture-recapture (SCR) models present an advance over non-spatial models by accounting for individual movement. While these models should be more robust to changes in trapping designs, they have not been well tested. Here we investigate how the spatial arrangement and size of the trapping array influence parameter estimates for SCR models. We analysed black bear data collected with 123 hair snares with an SCR model accounting for differences in detection and movement between sexes and across the trapping occasions. To see how the size of the trap array and trap dispersion influence parameter estimates, we repeated analysis for data from subsets of traps: 50% chosen at random, 50% in the centre of the array and 20% in the South of the array. Additionally, we simulated and analysed data under a suite of trap designs and home range sizes. In the black bear study, we found that results were similar across trap arrays, except when only 20% of the array was used. Black bear density was approximately 10 individuals per 100 km(2). Our simulation study showed that SCR models performed well as long as the extent of the trap array was similar to or larger than the extent of individual movement during the study period, and movement was at least half the distance between traps. SCR models performed well across a range of spatial trap setups and animal movements. Contrary to non-spatial capture-recapture models, they do not require the trapping grid to cover an area several times the average home range of the studied species. This renders SCR models more appropriate for the study of wide-ranging mammals and more flexible to design studies targeting multiple species.