COMPARING CAMERA TRAPS AND VISUAL ENCOUNTER SURVEYS FOR MONITORING SMALL ANIMALS
|Madison K Boynton; California Department of Fish and Wildlife; email@example.com; Mathew Toenies, Nicole Cornelius, Lindsey Rich, Nicole M Cornelius
Amphibian and reptile species face numerous threats including disease, habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, and climate change. However, effective management and conservation of herpetofauna largely depends upon resource-intensive survey methodologies. Camera trapping techniques show promise, but these methods must be tested alongside traditional methods to fully understand their advantages and disadvantages. To meet this research need, we compared an approach that combines a drift fence with short-focus camera traps to visual encounter surveys (VES) with cover boards. Between June and August 2020, we conducted two VES and installed one drift fence with camera traps at ten sites in Monterey County, CA, USA. The drift fence/camera setup outperformed the VES in terms of number of observations and herpetofauna species detected, while also resulting in detections of numerous small mammal, bird, and invertebrate species. Due to the effectiveness of the drift fence/camera setup, we have employed this technique at 170 survey locations across central and northern California in 2021-2022 and modified the methodology to improve performance and cost-effectiveness. Continued and broader application of this approach across California will provide critically needed data for the management and conservation of small animals, particularly small mammals and reptiles.