Take only photographs, leave only footprints: novel applications of non-invasive survey methods for rapid detection of small, arboreal animals
Public Library of Science
Copyright: © 2016 Mills et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
The development of appropriate wildlife survey techniques is essential to promote effective and efficient monitoring of species of conservation concern. Here, we demonstrate the utility of two rapid-assessment, non-invasive methods to detect the presence of elusive, small, arboreal animals. We use the hazel dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius, a rodent of conservation concern, as our focal species. Prevailing hazel dormouse survey methods are prolonged (often taking months to years to detect dormice), dependent on season and habitat, and/or have low detection rates. Alternatives would be of great use to ecologists who undertake dormouse surveys, especially those assessing the need for mitigation measures, as legally required for building development projects. Camera traps and footprint tracking are well-established tools for monitoring elusive large terrestrial mammals, but are rarely used for small species such as rodents, or in arboreal habitats. In trials of these adapted methods, hazel dormice visited bait stations and were successfully detected by both camera traps and tracking equipment at each of two woodland study sites, within days to weeks of installation. Camera trap images and footprints were of adequate quality to allow discrimination between two sympatric small mammal species (hazel dormouse and wood mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus). We discuss the relative merits of these methods with respect to research aims, funds, time available and habitat.
The work in this study was undertaken as part of a self-funded PhD and the authors have no support or funding to report for the work outlined in this manuscript.
This is the final version of the article. Available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Vol 11(1): e0146142. doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0146142
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