AN INTEGRATED SPATIAL CAPTURE-RECAPTURE APPROACH REVEALS THE DISTRIBUTION AND DENSITY OF A CRYPTIC CARNIVORE IN A PROTECTED AREA
|Marie Martin; firstname.lastname@example.org; David S. Green, Dustin Garrison, Jennifer Hartman, Breeanne Jackson, Heather Mackey, Mike McDonald, Heath Smith, Tessa R. Smith, Benjamin N. Sacks, Sarah L. Stock, Sean M. Matthews
Quantifying population parameters provides the opportunity to understand the effects of landscape structure and change on species of conservation interest. Estimating these parameters can be difficult for rare or cryptic species, particularly in rugged and remote landscapes, but noninvasive sampling methods can mediate these challenges. Herein, we developed an integrated spatial capture-recapture model to estimate the abundance, density, and distribution of a large carnivore of conservation interest, the cougar (Puma concolor), in Yosemite National Park, California, USA. We incorporated genotyped scats and remote camera detections collected in 2019 and 2020 to estimate cougar density and detection probability in Yosemite, and estimated the effects of vegetation, topography, anthropogenic and natural linear features, and survey effort on these parameters. We estimated an average of 31 (± 3.96, 24 – 39) cougars in Yosemite, with cougars occurring at higher densities in productive, vegetated areas. Detection probability was higher with increased survey effort, in the second year of surveys, and in areas closer to trails and farther from streams and heavily trafficked roads. Noninvasive sampling and integrated modeling approaches provide a framework that allows ecologists to leverage empirical data to elucidate the status of species of interest and provide inferences that can inform conservation objectives.