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Monitoring site occupancy for American mink in its native range


  • Associate Editor: Jeff Bowman.


American mink (Neovison vison) are secretive, semi-aquatic carnivores that often require noninvasive methods based on field signs such as tracks and scat for determining their spatial distribution. Most previous assessments of survey methods for American mink have been conducted in the United Kingdom where mink are an invasive species. We evaluated survey techniques for American mink in riparian habitat in its native range in the midwestern United States. We used occupancy modeling to compare detection rates between walking surveys and mink raft surveys, and we evaluated the potential for environmental covariates and observer bias to influence detectability from walking surveys. Per-survey detection probabilities were greater for walking surveys (0.72) than for mink rafts (0.39). Walking surveys also were cheaper and easier to conduct in small streams prone to flooding when compared to mink raft surveys. However, detection probabilities from walking surveys were affected by observer bias, recent rainfall, substrate, and date. We recommend walking surveys for determining the distribution of American mink in riparian habitat in the Midwest if occupancy modeling is applied to adjust for environmental and observer effects on detectability. We used such an approach to demonstrate occupancy dynamics of mink were related to variable water depths, which has implications for how this carnivore might be influenced by climate change. Mink rafts standardize the substrate for recording mink tracks and reduce the likelihood of observer effects. For studies using many volunteers, we recommend mink rafts for determining site occupancy by American mink. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.