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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 33(2)

An evaluation of faecal pellet counts to index rock-wallaby population size

Melinda A. Norton A B E , Andy Sharp A C and Adam Marks A D

A NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, PO Box 459, Broken Hill, NSW 2880, Australia.
B Current address: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Office of Environment and Heritage, Nowra Road, Fitzroy Falls, NSW 2577, Australia.
C Current address: School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001 and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Unit 3, 17 Lennon Street, Clare, SA 5453, Australia.
D Current address: Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, GPO Box 2454, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: melinda.norton@environment.nsw.gov.au

Australian Mammalogy 33(2) 221-227 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AM10048
Submitted: 28 November 2010  Accepted: 30 May 2011   Published: 12 September 2011

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This study assessed the efficacy of faecal pellet counts to index population size within yellow-footed rock-wallaby (Petrogale xanthopus) colonies. One hundred 1-m2 quadrats were permanently located in each of two colonies and emptied of pellets on a monthly basis between September 1996 and August 1998. The mean number of pellets (MNP) accumulated per season (quadrats as replicates) and a mean pellet presence/absence per quadrat index (MPAP) were calculated for each colony. Other population estimates and indices (direct counts, mark–recapture and aerial surveys) were also collected at these colonies or drawn from other studies, allowing comparison with the pellet data. The trends in abundance across seasons suggested by these additional estimates and indices were an overall increase at one colony with no change at the other. While these trends were reflected by the seasonal MNP trends across the eight seasons monitored, this was less often the case for the like-season MNP comparisons. The large degree of variation in seasonal MNP data may render it unsuitable for use in such short-term like-season comparisons. The MPAP seasonal data were also found to be unreliable as an index of population size for yellow-footed rock-wallaby. In Spring 1997, one pellet collection period was missed, resulting in a combined September–October 1997 count at each colony. This increased period between pellet counts appears to have resulted in increased pellet decomposition and/or loss. This disrupted sampling regime produced a marked discrepancy in the pellet indices, particularly in the colony with more individuals and thus more pellets to lose, and highlights the importance of a structured sampling regime.

Additional keywords: Petrogale xanthopus, population index, yellow-footed rock-wallaby.


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