Camera trap arrays improve detection probability of wildlife: Investigating study design considerations using an empirical dataset.

PLoS ONE. 2017;12(4):e0175684 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0175684


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Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

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Kelly M O'Connor
Lucas R Nathan
Marjorie R Liberati
Morgan W Tingley
Jason C Vokoun
Tracy A G Rittenhouse


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Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Camera trapping is a standard tool in ecological research and wildlife conservation. Study designs, particularly for small-bodied or cryptic wildlife species often attempt to boost low detection probabilities by using non-random camera placement or baited cameras, which may bias data, or incorrectly estimate detection and occupancy. We investigated the ability of non-baited, multi-camera arrays to increase detection probabilities of wildlife. Study design components were evaluated for their influence on wildlife detectability by iteratively parsing an empirical dataset (1) by different sizes of camera arrays deployed (1-10 cameras), and (2) by total season length (1-365 days). Four species from our dataset that represented a range of body sizes and differing degrees of presumed detectability based on life history traits were investigated: white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), bobcat (Lynx rufus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), and Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana). For all species, increasing from a single camera to a multi-camera array significantly improved detection probability across the range of season lengths and number of study sites evaluated. The use of a two camera array increased survey detection an average of 80% (range 40-128%) from the detection probability of a single camera across the four species. Species that were detected infrequently benefited most from a multiple-camera array, where the addition of up to eight cameras produced significant increases in detectability. However, for species detected at high frequencies, single cameras produced a season-long (i.e, the length of time over which cameras are deployed and actively monitored) detectability greater than 0.75. These results highlight the need for researchers to be critical about camera trap study designs based on their intended target species, as detectability for each focal species responded differently to array size and season length. We suggest that researchers a priori identify target species for which inference will be made, and then design camera trapping studies around the most difficult to detect of those species.