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Using distance sampling with camera traps to estimate the density of group-living and solitary mountain ungulates

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Abstract

Throughout the Himalaya, mountain ungulates are threatened by hunting for meat and body parts, habitat loss, and competition with livestock. Accurate population estimates are important for conservation management but most of the available methods to estimate ungulate densities are difficult to implement in mountainous terrain. Here, we tested the efficacy of the recent extension of the point transect method, using camera traps for estimating density of two mountain ungulates: the group-living Himalayan blue sheep or bharal Pseudois nayaur and the solitary Himalayan musk deer Moschus leucogaster. We deployed camera traps in 2017-2018 for the bharal (summer: 21 locations; winter: 25) in the trans-Himalayan region (3,000-5,000 m) and in 2018-2019 for the musk deer (summer: 30 locations; winter: 28) in subalpine habitats (2,500-3,500 m) in the Upper Bhagirathi basin, Uttarakhand, India. Using distance sampling with camera traps, we estimated the bharal population to be 0.51 ± SE 0.1 individuals/km2 (CV = 0.31) in summer and 0.64 ± SE 0.2 individuals/km2 (CV = 0.37) in winter. For musk deer, the estimated density was 0.4 ± SE 0.1 individuals/km2 (CV = 0.34) in summer and 0.1 ± SE 0.05 individuals/km2 (CV = 0.48) in winter. The high variability in these estimates is probably a result of the topography of the landscape and the biology of the species. We discuss the potential application of distance sampling with camera traps to estimate the density of mountain ungulates in remote and rugged terrain, and the limitations of this method.

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalOryx
VolumeFirstView
Early online date30 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Apr 2021

    Research areas

  • Bharal, Camera trapping, Density estimates, Musk deer, Point transect method, Subalpine, Trans-Himalaya, Upper Bhagirathi basin

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