Are we getting the full picture? Animal responses to camera traps and implications for predator studies

Camera trapping is widely used in ecological studies. It is often considered nonintrusive simply because animals are not captured or handled. However, the emission of light and sound from camera traps can be intrusive.

We evaluated the daytime and nighttime behavioral responses of four mammalian predators to camera traps in road-based, passive (no bait) surveys, in order to determine how this might affect ecological investigations. Wild dogs, European red foxes, feral cats, and spotted-tailed quolls all exhibited behaviors indicating they noticed camera traps. Their recognition of camera traps was more likely when animals were approaching the device than if they were walking away from it. Some individuals of each species retreated from camera traps and some moved toward them, with negative behaviors slightly more common during the daytime. There was no consistent response to camera traps within species; both attraction and repulsion were observed.

Camera trapping is clearly an intrusive sampling method for some individuals of some species. This may limit the utility of conclusions about animal behavior obtained from camera trapping. Similarly, it is possible that behavioral responses to camera traps could affect detection probabilities, introducing as yet unmeasured biases into camera trapping abundance surveys. These effects demand consideration when utilizing camera traps in ecological research and will ideally prompt further work to quantify associated biases in detection probabilities.

Secondary title Ecology and Evolution
Author Meek P, Ballard G, Fleming P and Falzon G.
Year 2016
ISBN/ISSN doi: 10.1002/ece3.2111
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