Estimation of abundance of mammal populations is essential for monitoring programs and for many ecological investigations. The first step for any study of variation in mammal abundance over space or time is to define the objectives of the study and how and why abundance data are to be used. The data used to estimate abundance are count statistics in the form of counts of animals or their signs. There are two major sources of uncertainty that must be considered in the design of the study: spatial variation and the relationship between abundance and the count statistic. Spatial variation in the distribution of animals or signs may be taken into account with appropriate spatial sampling. Count statistics may be viewed as random variables, with the expected value of the count statistic equal to the true abundance of the population multiplied by a coefficient p. With direct counts, p represents the probability of detection or capture of individuals, and with indirect counts it represents the rate of production of the signs as well as their probability of detection. Comparisons of abundance using count statistics from different times or places assume that the p are the same for all times or places being compared (p= pi). In spite of considerable evidence that this assumption rarely holds true, it is commonly made in studies of mammal abundance, as when the minimum number alive or indices based on sign counts are used to compare abundance in different habitats or times. Alternatives to relying on this assumption are to calibrate the index used by testing the assumption of p= pi, or to incorporate the estimation of p into the study design.