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Evaluation of nutria (Myocastor coypus) detection methods in Maryland, USA

February 16, 2017

Nutria (Myocaster coypus), invasive, semi-aquatic rodents native to South America, were introduced into Maryland near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (BNWR) in 1943. Irruptive population growth, expansion, and destructive feeding habits resulted in the destruction of thousands of acres of emergent marshes at and surrounding BNWR. In 2002, a partnership of federal, state and private entities initiated an eradication campaign to protect remaining wetlands from further damage and facilitate the restoration of coastal wetlands throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. Program staff removed nearly 14,000 nutria from five infested watersheds in a systematic trapping and hunting program between 2002 and 2014. As part of ongoing surveillance activities, the Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project uses a variety of tools to detect and remove nutria. Project staff developed a floating raft, or monitoring platform, to determine site occupancy. These platforms are placed along waterways and checked periodically for evidence of nutria visitation. We evaluated the effectiveness of monitoring platforms and three associated detection methods: hair snares, presence of scat, and trail cameras. Our objectives were to (1) determine if platform placement on land or water influenced nutria visitation rates, (2) determine if the presence of hair snares influenced visitation rates, and (3) determine method-specific detection probabilities. Our analyses indicated that platforms placed on land were 1.5–3.0 times more likely to be visited than those placed in water and that platforms without snares were an estimated 1.7–3.7 times more likely to be visited than those with snares. Although the presence of snares appears to have discouraged visitation, seasonal variation may confound interpretation of these results. Scat was the least effective method of determining nutria visitation, while hair snares were as effective as cameras. Estimated detection probabilities provided by occupancy modeling were 0.73 for hair snares, 0.71 for cameras and 0.40 for scat. We recommend the use of hair snares on monitoring platforms as they are the most cost-effective and reliable detection method available at this time. Future research should focus on determining the cause for the observed decrease in nutria visits after snares were applied.

Publication Year 2017
Title Evaluation of nutria (Myocastor coypus) detection methods in Maryland, USA
DOI 10.1007/s10530-016-1312-1
Authors Margaret A. Pepper, Valentine Herrmann, James E. Hines, James D. Nichols, Stephen R Kendrot
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biological Invasions
Index ID 70182087
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center