Methods and tools

Learning to count: adapting population monitoring for Endangered huemul deer Hippocamelus bisulcus to meet conservation objectives

Heiko U. Wittmera1 p1 c1, Paulo Cortia2, Cristián Saucedoa3 and José Luis Galaza4

a1 Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, California, USA.

a2 Instituto de Zoología, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile

a3 Conservación Patagónica, Patagonia Park, Cochrane, Chile

a4 Gerencia Áreas Protegidas y Medio Ambiente, Corporación Nacional Forestal, Santiago, Chile


Considerable efforts have been invested in recent years to improve methods for both data collection and analyses required for population monitoring. Where historical or current estimates of population size are not adjusted for detection probabilities they may be too inaccurate to provide meaningful estimates of trends and thus monitoring methods need to be adapted. Here, we use data from the Endangered huemul deer Hippocamelus bisulcus to outline a framework to develop accurate robust estimates of detection probabilities that can be incorporated into new surveys in a cost-effective way and applied to existing survey data sets. In particular, by retroactively estimating detection probabilities for surveys of huemul, we show that current survey methods for huemul are inadequate to determine population trends reliably. Based on these results we propose a new monitoring method for the huemul and discuss the importance of estimating accuracies of historical survey data to ensure that changes in the abundance of the species reflect real population trends and are not an artefact of variation over time in the accuracy of survey data.

(Received August 22 2009)

(Reviewed October 05 2009)

(Accepted November 06 2009)


c1 Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, California, USA. E-mail heiko.wittmer@vuw.ac.nz

p1 Current address: School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand