Title:  To Bait or Not to Bait: Comparing Camera Survey Methods for White-tailed Deer Population Estimation
Author(s): Robert Baldwin, Wake Forest University; Jared Beaver; Michael Anderson; Matt Windsor; Miles Silman
Year: 2017
Abstract: Infrared-triggered camera surveys are an increasingly popular technique for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus; hereafter deer) estimation because they are less invasive, less labor intensive, and more cost effective than other methods. Current camera survey methods, however, rely on the use of bait as an attractant, exposing deer population estimates to biases due to unequal detectability of animals. Few studies have directly compared baited verses un-baited camera surveys for deer estimation. We conducted an un-baited and baited camera survey at Pilot Mountain State Park, NC, USA from July 1 ?" September 29 and September 30 ?" October 14 2016; respectively. We had 22 camera site locations (1 camera/100 acres). Photos were analyzed using Jacobson et al.'s (1997) method. We had a total of 1658 and 60508 deer visits for un-baited and baited surveys respectively. Density estimates increased by 61% and sex ratios (females:males) decreased nearly twofold for un-baited and baited surveys, indicating unequal detectability between sexes in the presence of bait. Fawn recruitment rate estimates were identical between surveys. Frequency distribution of hourly deer visitations differed between surveys, giving further indication of behavioral changes due to baiting. However, both surveys are limited by the necessity of identifying individual bucks. Future efforts will focus on providing a comparison of un-baited and baited surveys using both traditional analyses and new models not reliant on individual identification. This study improves the effectiveness of cameras as a survey tool by providing managers with a more complete understanding of biases involved in generating population estimates.

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