Trap configuration and spacing influences parameter estimates in spatial capture-recapture models

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An increasing number of studies employ spatial capture-recapture models to estimate population size, but there has been limited research on how different spatial sampling designs and trap configurations influence parameter estimators. Spatial capture-recapture models provide an advantage over non-spatial models by explicitly accounting for heterogeneous detection probabilities among individuals that arise due to the spatial organization of individuals relative to sampling devices. We simulated black bear (Ursus americanus) populations and spatial capture-recapture data to evaluate the influence of trap configuration and trap spacing on estimates of population size and a spatial scale parameter, sigma, that relates to home range size. We varied detection probability and home range size, and considered three trap configurations common to large-mammal mark-recapture studies: regular spacing, clustered, and a temporal sequence of different cluster configurations (i.e., trap relocation). We explored trap spacing and number of traps per cluster by varying the number of traps. The clustered arrangement performed well when detection rates were low, and provides for easier field implementation than the sequential trap arrangement. However, performance differences between trap configurations diminished as home range size increased. Our simulations suggest it is important to consider trap spacing relative to home range sizes, with traps ideally spaced no more than twice the spatial scale parameter. While spatial capture-recapture models can accommodate different sampling designs and still estimate parameters with accuracy and precision, our simulations demonstrate that aspects of sampling design, namely trap configuration and spacing, must consider study area size, ranges of individual movement, and home range sizes in the study population.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Trap configuration and spacing influences parameter estimates in spatial capture-recapture models
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0088025
Volume 9
Issue 2
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher PLoS
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description e88025; 9 p.
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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