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

A comparison of the effectiveness of camera trapping and live trapping for sampling terrestrial small-mammal communities

Natasha De Bondi A , John G. White A C , Mike Stevens A B and Raylene Cooke A

A School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Vic. 3125, Australia.

B Grampians National Park, Parks Victoria, PO Box 18, Halls Gap, Vic. 3381, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: john.white@deakin.edu.au

Wildlife Research 37(6) 456-465 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR10046
Submitted: 8 March 2010  Accepted: 23 August 2010   Published: 18 October 2010


Context. There is an increasing reliance on the use of camera-trap technologies for surveys of medium to large terrestrial mammals. Camera trapping may, however, also have significant applications for broad-scale surveys of small mammals.

Aims. The present study aims to compare results from camera-trapping surveys to those of the more traditional live-trapping techniques. Specifically, it aims to test the effectiveness of the techniques for detecting species, and the cost effectiveness of both approaches.

Methods. Surveys were conducted across 36 sites in the Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia, between April and July 2009. At each site, independent surveys were conducted for small mammals by using a combination of Elliot and cage trapping, then camera trapping. Results for the two different approaches were compared for both their ability to generate small-mammal presence data and their cost effectiveness.

Key results. Camera-trapping surveys of 36 sites in the Grampians National Park compared favourably with those of live-trapping surveys. Similar species were detected across the sites, and camera trapping was a considerably more cost effective than live trapping.

Conclusions. Camera-trapping surveys of small terrestrial mammals may provide a new and cost-effective technique for surveying terrestrial small mammals. This is particularly the case when presence data are the main requirement of the survey, with no requirement to capture and tag animals.

Implications. Given the cost-effective nature of camera trapping, there is potential to use this approach to increase the level of replication and spatial coverage of small-mammal surveys. Improving the replication and spatial coverage of studies has the potential to significantly increase the scope of research questions that can be asked, thus providing the potential to improve wildlife management.

Additional keywords: camera trapping, cost effectiveness, small mammal, survey methods, trapping.


Barea-Azcón J. M. Virgos E. Ballesteros-Duperon E. Moleon M. Chirosa M. 2007 Surveying carnivores at large spatial scales: a comparison of four broad-applied methods. Biodiversity and Conservation 16 1213 1230 doi:10.1007/s10531-006-9114-x

Cayley R. A. , and Taylor D. H. (1997). Grampians special map area geological report. Geological Survey of Victoria Report 107. Crown State of Victoria, Melbourne.

Cowardin L. M. 1969 Use of flooded timber by waterfowl at Montezuma national wildlife refuge. The Journal of Wildlife Management 33 829 842 doi:10.2307/3799314

Cutler T. L. Swann D. E. 1999 Using remote photography in wildlife ecology: a review. Wildlife Society Bulletin 27 571 581

Foster M. L. Humphrey S. R. 1995 Use of highway underpasses by Florida panthers and other wildlife. Wildlife Society Bulletin 23 95 100

Garden J. G. McAlpine C. A. Possingham H. P. Jones D. N. 2007 Using multiple survey methods to detect terrestrial reptiles and mammals: what are the most successful and cost-efficient combinations? Wildlife Research 34 218 227

Gonzalez-Esteban J. Villate I. Irizar I. 2004 Assessing camera traps for surveying the european mink, Mustela lutreola (Linnaeus, 1761), distribution. European Journal of Wildlife Research 50 33 36

Hamm K. A. Diller L. V. Kitchen D. W. 2002 Comparison of indices to estimate abundance of dusky-footed woodrats. Wildlife Society Bulletin 30 64 70

Hines J. E. (2006). PRESENCE2 – Software to estimate patch occupancy and related parameters. USGS-PWRC. Available at
http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/software/presence.html [accessed June 2010].

Hourigan C. L. Catterall C. P. Jones D. Rhodes M. 2008 A comparison of the effectiveness of bat detectors and harp traps for surveying bats in an urban landscape. Wildlife Research 35 768 774 doi:10.1071/WR07154

Jones C. , McShea W. J. , Conroy M. J. , and Kunz T. H. (1996). Capturing mammals. In ‘Measuring and Monitoring Biological Diversity: Standard Methods for Mammals’. (Eds D. E. Wilson, F. R. Cole, J. D. Nichols, R. Rudran and M. S. Foster.) pp. 115–155. (Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, DC.)

Karanth K. U. Nichols J. D. 1998 Estimation of tiger densities in India using photographic captures and recaptures. Ecology 79 2852 2862 doi:10.1890/0012-9658(1998)079[2852:EOTDII]2.0.CO;2

Kelly M. J. 2008 Design, evaluate, refine: camera trap studies for elusive species. Animal Conservation 11 182 184 doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2008.00179.x

Kelly M. J. Holub E. L. 2008 Camera trapping of carnivores: trap success among camera types and across species, and habitat selection by species, on salt pond mountain, Giles County, Virginia. Northeastern Naturalist 15 249 262 doi:10.1656/1092-6194(2008)15[249:CTOCTS]2.0.CO;2

Kelly M. J. Noss A. J. Di Bitetti M. S. Maffei L. Arispe R. L. Paviolo A. De Angelo C. D. Di Blanco Y. E. 2008 Estimating puma densities from camera trapping across three study sites: Bolivia, Argentina and Belize. Journal of Mammalogy 89 408 418 doi:10.1644/06-MAMM-A-424R.1

Kelt D. A. 1996 Ecology of small mammals across a strong environmental gradient in southern South America. Journal of Mammalogy 77 205 219 doi:10.2307/1382722

Kéry M. 2002 Inferring the absence of a species – a case study of snakes. The Journal of Wildlife Management 66 330 338 doi:10.2307/3803165

King C. M. McDonald R. M. Martin R. D. Tempero G. W. Holmes S. J. 2007 Long-term automated monitoring of the distribution of small carnivores. Wildlife Research 34 140 148 doi:10.1071/WR05091

Koerth B. H. McKown C. D. Kroll J. C. 1997 Infrared triggered camera versus helicopter counts of white-tailed deer. Wildlife Society Bulletin 25 557 562

Krebs C. J. (1999). ‘Ecological Methodology.’ 2nd edn. (Benjamin/Cummings: Menlo Park, CA.)

Larrucea E. S. Brussard P. F. 2008 Habitat selection and current distribution of the pygmy rabbit in Nevada and California, USA. Journal of Mammalogy 89 691 699

Lyra-Jorge M. C. Ciocheti G. Pivello V. R. Meirelles S. T. 2008 Comparing methods for sampling large- and medium-sized mammals: camera traps and track plots. European Journal of Wildlife Research 54 739 744 doi:10.1007/s10344-008-0205-8

MacKenzie D. I. Nichols J. D. Lachman G. B. Droege S. Royle J. A. Langtim C. A. 2002 Estimating site occupancy rates when detection probabilities are less than one. Ecology 83 2248 2255 doi:10.1890/0012-9658(2002)083[2248:ESORWD]2.0.CO;2

Maffei L. Noss A. J. Cuéllar E. Rumiz D. I. 2005 Ocelot (Felis pardalis) population densities, activity and ranging behaviour in the dry forests of eastern Bolivia: data from camera trapping. Journal of Tropical Ecology 21 349 353 doi:10.1017/S0266467405002397

McKelvey K. S. Pearson D. E. 2001 Population estimation with sparse data: the role of estimators versus indices revisited. Canadian Journal of Zoology 79 1754 1765 doi:10.1139/cjz-79-10-1754

Moruzzi T. L. Fuller T. K. Degraaf R. M. Brooks R. T. Li W. J. 2002 Assessing remotely triggered cameras for surveying carnivore distribution. Wildlife Society Bulletin 30 380 386

Nichols J. D. Pollock K. H. 1983 Estimation methodology in contemporary small mammal capture-recapture studies. Journal of Mammalogy 64 253 260

O’Brien T. G. Kinnaird M. F. Wibisono H. T. 2003 Crouching tigers, hidden prey: Sumatran tiger and prey populations in a tropical forest landscape. Animal Conservation 6 131 139 doi:10.1017/S1367943003003172

Parks Victoria (2003). ‘Grampians National Park Management Plan.’ pp. 3–4. (Parks Victoria: Melbourne.)

Peterson L. M. Thomas J. A. 1998 Performance of trailmaster infrared sensors in monitoring captive coyotes. Wildlife Society Bulletin 26 592 596

Pollock K. H. Nichols J. D. Simons T. R. Farnsworth G. L. Bailey L. L. Sauer J. R. 2002 Large scale wildlife monitoring studies: statistical methods for design and analysis. Environmetrics 13 105 119

Read D. G. 1988 Weather and trap response of the dasyurid marsupials Sminthopsis-crassicaudata, Planigale-gilesi and Planigale-tenuirostris. Australian Wildlife Research 15 139 148 doi:10.1071/WR9880139

Rowcliffe J. Field J. Turvey S. T. Carbone C. 2008 Estimating animal density using camera traps without the need for individual recognition. Journal of Applied Ecology 45 1228 1236 doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01473.x

Sadlier L. M. J. Webbon C. C. Baker P. J. Harris S. 2004 Methods of monitoring red foxes Vulpes vulpes and badgers Meles meles: are field signs the answer? Mammal Review 34 75 98 doi:10.1046/j.0305-1838.2003.00029.x

Silveira L. Jacomo A. T. A. Diniz J. A. F. 2003 Camera trap, line transect census and track surveys: a comparative evaluation. Biological Conservation 114 351 355 doi:10.1016/S0006-3207(03)00063-6

Stanley T. R. Royle J. A. 2005 Estimating site occupancy and abundance using indirect detection indices. The Journal of Wildlife Management 69 874 883 doi:10.2193/0022-541X(2005)069[0874:ESOAAU]2.0.CO;2

Sweitzer R. A. Van Vuren D. Gardner I. A. Boyce W. M. Waithman J. D. 2000 Estimating sizes of wild pig populations in the north and central coast regions of California. The Journal of Wildlife Management 64 531 543 doi:10.2307/3803251

Tasker E. M. Dickman C. R. 2002 A review of elliott trapping methods for small mammals in Australia. Australian Mammalogy 23 77 87

Thompson G. G. Thompson S. A. 2007 Usefulness of funnel traps in catching small reptiles and mammals, with comments on the effectiveness of the alternatives. Wildlife Research 34 491 497

Trolle M. Kery M. 2003 Estimation of ocelot density in the Pantanal using capture–recapture analysis of camera-trapping data. Journal of Mammalogy 84 607 614 doi:10.1644/1545-1542(2003)084<0607:EOODIT>2.0.CO;2

Trolle M. Noss A. J. Lima E. D. S. Dalponte J. C. 2007 Camera-trap studies of maned wolf density in the cerrado and the pantanal of Brazil. Biodiversity and Conservation 16 1197 1204 doi:10.1007/s10531-006-9105-y

Trolle M. Noss A. J. Cordeiro J. L. P. Oliveira L. F. B. 2008 Brazilian tapir density in the pantanal: a comparison of systematic camera-trapping and line-transect surveys. Biotropica 40 211 217 doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2007.00350.x

Van Dyck S. , and Strahan R. (Eds) (2008). ‘The Mammals of Australia.’ 3rd edn. (Reed New Holland: Sydney.)

Vernes K. Haydon D. T. 2001 Effect of fire on northern bettong (Bettongia tropica) foraging behaviour. Austral Ecology 26 649 659 doi:10.1046/j.1442-9993.2001.01141.x

Vine S. J. Crowther M. S. Lapidge S. J. Dickman C. R. Mooney N. Piggot M. P. English A. W. 2009 Comparison of methods to detect rare and cryptic species: a case study using the red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Wildlife Research 36 436 446 doi:10.1071/WR08069

Watkins A. F. McWhirter J. L. King C. M. 2010 Variable detectability in long-term population surveys of small mammals. European Journal of Wildlife Research 56 261 274 doi:10.1007/s10344-009-0308-x

Whisson D. A. Engeman R. M. Collins K. 2005 Developing relative abundance techniques (RATs) for monitoring rodent populations. Wildlife Research 32 239 244 doi:10.1071/WR03128

Wiewel A. S. Clark W. R. Sovada M. A. 2007 Assessing small mammal abundance with track-tube indices and mark-recapture population estimates. Journal of Mammalogy 88 250 260 doi:10.1644/06-MAMM-A-098R1.1

Yates F. 1934 Contingency tables involving small numbers and the χ2 test. Supplement to the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 1 217 235 doi:10.2307/2983604

Export Citation Cited By (48)