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Noninvasive Hair Sampling and Genetic Tagging of Co-distributed Fishers and American Martens

Bronwyn W. Williams, Dwayne R. Etter, Daniel W. Linden, Kelly F. Millenbah, Scott R. Winterstein and Kim T. Scribner
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 73, No. 1 (Jan., 2009), pp. 26-34
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40208485
Page Count: 9
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Noninvasive Hair Sampling and Genetic Tagging of Co-distributed Fishers and American Martens
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Abstract

Estimation of abundance is important for assessing population responses to management actions. Accurate abundance estimates are particularly critical for monitoring temporal variation following reintroductions when the management goal is to attain population sizes capable of sustaining harvest. Numerous reintroductions have taken place in the Great Lakes region of North America, including efforts to restore extirpated fishers (Martes pennanti) and American martens (M. americana). We used a DNA-based noninvasive hair-snaring method based on one trap design and trapping -grid configuration, and evaluated capture-mark-recapture (CMR) analytical approaches to simultaneously estimate population size for co-distributed fishers and American martens in a 671-km² area of the Ottawa National Forest in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA. We included harvest as a final recapture period to increase probability of recapture and to evaluate potential violations of geographic closure assumptions. We used microsatellite markers to identify target species, eliminate congener species, and provide individual identity for estimation of abundance. Population estimates for fishers and martens on the study area ranged from 35 to 60 and 8 to 28, respectively. Estimators incorporating harvest data resulted in up to a 40% increase in abundance estimates relative to estimators without harvest. We considered population estimates not including harvest data the most appropriate for the study due to timing of sampling and environmental factors, but inclusion of harvested individuals was shown to be useful as a means to detect violations of the assumption of geographic closure. We suggest improvements on future CMR sampling designs for larger landscape scales of relevance to management through incorporation of habitat or historical harvest data. Noninvasive genetic methods that simultaneously estimate the numerical abundance of co-distributed species can greatly decrease assessment costs relative to traditional methods, and increase resulting demographic and ecological information.

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