Comparing the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of sampling methods for estimating population abundance and density of a recovering carnivore: the European pine marten (Martes martes)

  • Elizabeth CrooseEmail author
  • Johnny D. S. Birks
  • John Martin
  • Gareth Ventress
  • Jenny MacPherson
  • Catherine O’Reilly
Original Article


Many methods are available to gather data on wildlife population parameters, such as population abundance and density, yet few have been compared or validated. We compared the efficacy of three survey methods (live trapping, hair tubes and scats) for estimating abundance and population density of the European pine marten (Martes martes) in Galloway Forest, Scotland. We evaluated these methods by, firstly, comparing the accuracy of the population estimate derived from each method, and, secondly, comparing the financial cost of each method. Molecular analysis of samples from all three methods was used to determine sex and individual genotype. Population abundance estimates were derived from capture-recapture programme Capwire. The non-invasive methods (hair tubes and scats combined) detected 81% of known individuals, although hair tubes and scats performed poorly alone, detecting 48% and 52% of individuals, respectively. Live trapping was the individual method that detected the most individuals (77%). Hair tubes were the most expensive method, both in financial cost and personnel hours, whilst scat sampling was the cheapest method. There was a highly significant association between the sex of the animal and the total number of detections by method. The population abundance estimate from all methods combined was 32 (95% CI 31–35) and the population density estimate was 0.27 martens/km2. This study indicates that a combined sampling approach comprising hair tubes and scats maximises the number of detections and provides a viable alternative to invasive live trapping.


(4–6): Pine marten Population abundance Population density Non-invasive Trapping 



We are grateful to Andrew Jarrott, Colin Hossack and Kenny Kortland for the continued support of this work. We thank the following volunteers who assisted with fieldwork: Trina Barratt, Jacob Graham, Sammy Grey, Kevin Heywood and Jenni Mouat. We are especially grateful to Shirley Martin for her significant contributions to fieldwork, logistical and administrative support.

Funding information

This study was funded by Forestry Commission Scotland.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vincent Wildlife TrustLedburyUK
  2. 2.Environment and Sustainability InstituteUniversity of ExeterPenrynUK
  3. 3.Swift Ecology LtdWorcesterUK
  4. 4.Myotismart LtdGrange-over-SandsUK
  5. 5.Forest Enterprise ScotlandDunkeldUK
  6. 6.Waterford Institute of TechnologyWaterfordRepublic of Ireland

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