Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Correcting wildlife counts using detection probabilities

Gary C. White
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Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA. Email: gwhite@cnr.colostate.edu

Wildlife Research 32(3) 211-216 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR03123
Submitted: 22 December 2003  Accepted: 3 March 2005   Published: 22 June 2005


One of the most pervasive uses of indices of wildlife populations is uncorrected counts of animals. Two examples are the minimum number known alive from capture and release studies, and aerial surveys where the detection probability is not estimated from a sightability model, marked animals, or distance sampling. Both the mark–recapture and distance-sampling estimators are techniques to estimate the probability of detection of an individual animal (or cluster of animals), which is then used to correct a count of animals. However, often the number of animals in a survey is inadequate to compute an estimate of the detection probability and hence correct the count. Modern methods allow sophisticated modelling to estimate the detection probability, including incorporating covariates to provide additional information about the detection probability. Examples from both distance and mark–recapture sampling are presented to demonstrate the approach.


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