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30 October 2023 Estimating roadkill rates while accounting for carcass detection and persistence using open-population capture–recapture models
Talita Menger, Andreas Kindel, Ismael Verrastro Brack
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Context. Accurately estimating wildlife roadkill is necessary to compare different roads, periods, and species, and to plan and assess mitigation effectiveness. We must account for the two main sources of errors associated with carcass sampling – carcass detection and persistence. Open-population models are used to estimate abundance, survival probabilities, and recruitment in living animal populations, accounting for imperfect detection, and they can be used in the context of animal fatalities.

Aims. The aim of this study was to explore an open-population approach to estimate comparable roadkill rates from carcass capture–recapture data, accounting for carcass detection and persistence.

Methods. We surveyed carcasses of the white-eared opossum (Didelphis albiventris) and black-and-white tegu lizard (Salvator merianae) on four road stretches using two sampling designs with different number of visits and sampling sessions. Carcasses were marked to be recaptured over visits within the same sampling session, resulting in a capture history for each carcass. Encounter history data were modelled using the superpopulation formulation of the open-population capture–recapture model under Bayesian inference for different datasets. A daily roadkill rate per kilometre was derived from the model entry probability estimate.

Key results. We estimated a daily roadkill rate with 1501 captures from 447 opossum carcasses and 511 captures from 218 tegu carcasses. For full data, mean carcass detection over the sessions ranged from 0.49 to 0.85 for the opossum and from 0.27 to 0.80 for the tegu, and mean carcass persistence ranged from 0.60 to 0.94 for the opossum and from 0.64 to 0.91 for the tegu. Scenarios with more occasions and captures increased precision of roadkill rates.

Conclusions. We were able to explicitly estimate roadkill rates using an open-population capture–recapture model under a Bayesian framework. It provides accurate roadkill numbers for a known time frame and road extension, accounting for imperfect detection and its associated uncertainty. Under scenarios of few carcasses, users should consider a higher number of occasions.

Implications. Not addressing carcass sampling errors or simplistically addressing them (e.g. only once during the study period) could mislead mitigation efforts. The approach used here can be used to estimate fatalities in other locations, such as windfarms and powerlines, for which repeated observations of marked carcasses are an option.

Talita Menger, Andreas Kindel, and Ismael Verrastro Brack "Estimating roadkill rates while accounting for carcass detection and persistence using open-population capture–recapture models," Wildlife Research 51(1), (30 October 2023).
Received: 27 July 2022; Accepted: 9 October 2023; Published: 30 October 2023
carcass removal
fatality estimates
imperfect detection
road ecology
roadkill rates
sampling errors
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