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Interaction between transect design and animal distribution in distance sampling of deer

November 11, 2022

We conducted a simulation study to evaluate the consequences of violating statistical assumptions of distance sampling (DS) on the bias and precision of population estimates of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Distance sampling is a method for estimating the density of organisms using a distribution of observed distances to individuals. A key assumption of DS is that sampling transects are randomly located with respect to the population being sampled. Most DS transects used in National Parks follow roads and trails, which are not positioned randomly. We constructed spatially explicit simulations of surveys using 7 different types of deer spatial distributions and 3 survey designs. A significant interaction between survey type and deer distribution type explained most of the variation in population estimates across simulations and this interaction was also a significant predictor of the coefficient of variation (CV) of population estimates. Simulation results suggested that 1) non-road surveys were more robust to bias than were road surveys, 2) effectiveness of each of 3 survey types was dependent on the way deer were distributed across the landscape, and 3) non-road surveys produced unbiased estimates of populations affected by roads, whereas road surveys did not. The results of our study suggest that DS surveys using pre-existing roads and trails have potential biases resulting from study design, something that could be considered by land managers when constructing surveys.

Publication Year 2022
Title Interaction between transect design and animal distribution in distance sampling of deer
DOI 10.1002/wsb.1368
Authors Nicholas S. Green, Mark L. Wildhaber, Janice L. Albers
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Wildlife Society Bulletin
Index ID 70240241
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center