Out of precaution, opportunism, and a general tendency towards thoroughness, researchers studying wildlife often collect multiple, sometimes highly correlated measurements or samples. Although such redundancy has its benefits in terms of quality control, increased resolution, and unforeseen future utility, it also comes at a cost if animal welfare (e.g., duration of handling) or time and resource limitation are a concern. Using principle components analysis and bootstrapping, we analyzed sets of morphometric measurements collected on 171 brown bears in Sweden during a long-term monitoring study (1984–2006). We show that of 11 measurements, 7 were so similar in terms of their predictive power for an overall size index that each individual measurement provided little additional information. We argue that when multiple research objectives or data collection goals compete for a limited amount of time or resources, it is advisable to critically evaluate the amount of additional information contributed by extra measurements. We recommend that wildlife researchers look critically at the data they collect not just in terms of quality but also in terms of need.
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Vol. 73 • No. 6