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Keywords:

  • area surveyed;
  • density estimation;
  • Lynx lynx;
  • photographic capture–recapture;
  • Swiss Alps

Abstract

We studied the influence of surveyed area size on density estimates by means of camera-trapping in a low-density felid population (1–2 individuals/100 km2). We applied non-spatial capture–recapture (CR) and spatial CR (SCR) models for Eurasian lynx during winter 2005/2006 in the northwestern Swiss Alps by sampling an area divided into 5 nested plots ranging from 65 to 760 km2. CR model density estimates (95% CI) for models M0 and Mh decreased from 2.61 (1.55–3.68) and 3.6 (1.62–5.57) independent lynx/100 km2, respectively, in the smallest to 1.20 (1.04–1.35) and 1.26 (0.89–1.63) independent lynx/100 km2, respectively, in the largest area surveyed. SCR model density estimates also decreased with increasing sampling area but not significantly. High individual range overlaps in relatively small areas (the edge effect) is the most plausible reason for this positive bias in the CR models. Our results confirm that SCR models are much more robust to changes in trap array size than CR models, thus avoiding overestimation of density in smaller areas. However, when a study is concerned with monitoring population changes, large spatial efforts (area surveyed ≥760 km2) are required to obtain reliable and precise density estimates with these population densities and recapture rates.