Statistical population reconstruction using age-at-harvest and catch-effort data has recently emerged as a robust and versatile approach to estimating the demographic dynamics of harvested populations of wildlife. Although there are clear benefits to incorporating radio-telemetry data into reconstruction efforts, these data are costly and time-consuming to collect. Managers that consider collecting these data alongside existing efforts could benefit from a comprehensive examination of how such benefits are influenced by the amount of radio-telemetry data collected. Using a harvested population of American marten (Martes americana) in northeastern Minnesota, USA as a case study, we investigated the performance of population reconstruction using information on natural, harvest, or combined mortality derived from radio-telemetry data collected over different numbers of years and with different numbers of animals collared each year. We simulated populations under a range of conditions and determined that incorporating radio-telemetry data on natural and harvest mortality significantly improved model precision, and that each additional animal collared per year yielded a 0.50 ± 0.14% (SE) improvement in precision, whereas every additional year of radio-telemetry data resulted in a 2.42 ± 0.70% improvement. Thus, including another year of radio-telemetry resulted in similar gains in precision as including approximately 5 additional animals collared per year. In our applied marten example, incorporating radio-telemetry data resulted in a significantly higher estimate of trapping vulnerability (0.20 vs. 0.058) and an overall smaller population size than reconstruction based solely on age-at-harvest and trapper effort data. These results illustrate the benefits of performing auxiliary studies, caution against relying on the results of population reconstruction based solely on age-at-harvest and hunter-effort data, and demonstrate that improvements from incorporating radio-telemetry data become evident even after as few as 2 years of data collection.
- Martes americana
- abundance estimation
- harvest mortality
- maximum likelihood estimation
- population analysis
- statistical population reconstruction