Comparison of Drive Counts and Mark-Resight As Methods of Population Size Estimation of Highly Dense Sika Deer (Cervus nippon) Populations
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Assessing temporal changes in abundance indices is an important issue in the management of large herbivore populations. The drive counts method has been frequently used as a deer abundance index in mountainous regions. However, despite an inherent risk for observation errors in drive counts, which increase with deer density, evaluations of the utility of drive counts at a high deer density remain scarce. We compared the drive counts and mark-resight (MR) methods in the evaluation of a highly dense sika deer population (MR estimates ranged between 11 and 53 individuals/km^2) on Nakanoshima Island, Hokkaido, Japan, between 1999 and 2006. This deer population experienced two large reductions in density; approximately 200 animals in total were taken from the population through a large-scale population removal and a separate winter mass mortality event. Although the drive counts tracked temporal changes in deer abundance on the island, they overestimated the counts for all years in comparison to the MR method. Increased overestimation in drive count estimates after the winter mass mortality event may be due to a double count derived from increased deer movement and recovery of body condition secondary to the mitigation of density-dependent food limitations. Drive counts are unreliable because they are affected by unfavorable factors such as bad weather, and they are cost-prohibitive to repeat, which precludes the calculation of confidence intervals. Therefore, the use of drive counts to infer the deer abundance needs to be reconsidered.
- PLoS ONE
PLoS ONE 11(10), e0164345-1-e0164345-14, 2016-10