Date of this Version
Wildlife Society Bulletin 40(2):321–330; 2016; DOI: 10.1002/wsb.659
Monitoring wolf abundance is important for recovery efforts of Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in Arizona and New Mexico, USA. Although radiotelemetry has been a reliable method, collaring and tracking wolves in an expanding population will be prohibitively expensive and alternative methods to estimate abundance will become necessary. We applied 10 canid microsatellite loci to 235 Mexican wolf samples, 48 coyote (C. latrans) samples, and 14 domestic dog (C. lupus familiaris) samples to identify alleles that provide reliable separation of these species. We then evaluated an approach for prescreening, noninvasively collected DNA obtained from fecal samples to identify Mexican wolves. We generated complete genotypes for only those samples identified as probable Mexican wolves. We used these genotypes to estimate mark–recapture population estimates of Mexican wolves and compared these to known numbers of wolves in the study area.We collected fecal samples during 3 sampling periods in 2007–2008 and used Huggins-type mark–recapture models to estimate Mexican wolf abundance. We were able to generate abundance estimates with 95% confidence for 2 of 3 sampling periods. We estimated abundance to be 10 (95% Cl = 6–34) during one sampling period when the known abundance was 10 and we estimated abundance to be 9 (95% CI = 6 –30) during the other sampling period when the known abundance was 10. The application of this noninvasive method to estimate Mexican wolf abundance provides an alternative monitoring tool that could be useful for long-term monitoring of this and other recovering populations. Published 2016. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.