U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

March 2001


Published in Carnivore Conservation, edited by John L. Gittleman, Stephan M. Funk, David W. MacDonald, and Robert K. Wayne. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press & The Zoological Society of London, 2001. Pages 372–396.


There is increasing concern about the status and distribution of terrestrial carnivore populations throughout the world (Schaller, 1996). Changes in land-use practices, habitat loss and fragmentation, sanctioned human persecution, declines in natural prey, disease, illegal poaching, and increased competition within carnivore guilds have brought about a general decline in several carnivore populations with some species now occupying a fragment of their former range. The continued loss of suitable habitat due to an ever expanding human population has placed the issue of conservation and protection of some carnivores as a top environmental priority and/or controversy for many agencies and organizations. Paramount to carnivore recovery, reintroduction, or development of management plans and policies, is having reliable and accurate information regarding the status, health, and well-being of the carnivore population of concern. One of the most commonly asked questions when dealing with carnivore conservation is: where are the animals, how many are there, and what is the population trend? These questions often place biologists and managers in the difficult position of determining the status of a carnivore population. Biologists need reliable methods that provide accurate data on the distribution, abundance, and population trend of a species in order to make informed decisions and recommendations to policy makers. Many carnivores are secretive, nocturnal, far-ranging, live in densely vegetated habitats or remote areas, or exist at extremely low densities, making censusing and monitoring a carnivore population very difficult, if not sometimes seemingly impossible.