National Park Service


Date of this Version



Ecological Applications, 18(3), 2008, pp. 577–589.


A fundamental challenge to estimating population size with mark–recapture methods is heterogeneous capture probabilities and subsequent bias of population estimates. Confronting this problem usually requires substantial sampling effort that can be difficult to achieve for some species, such as carnivores. We developed a methodology that uses two data sources to deal with heterogeneity and applied this to DNA mark–recapture data from grizzly bears (Ursus arctos). We improved population estimates by incorporating additional DNA ‘‘captures’’ of grizzly bears obtained by collecting hair from unbaited bear rub trees concurrently with baited, grid-based, hair snag sampling. We consider a Lincoln-Petersen estimator with hair snag captures as the initial session and rub tree captures as the recapture session and develop an estimator in program MARK that treats hair snag and rub tree samples as successive sessions. Using empirical data from a large-scale project in the greater Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, area and simulation modeling we evaluate these methods and compare the results to hair-snag-only estimates. Empirical results indicate that, compared with hair-snag-only data, the joint hair-snag–rub-tree methods produce similar but more precise estimates if capture and recapture rates are reasonably high for both methods. Simulation results suggest that estimators are potentially affected by correlation of capture probabilities between sample types in the presence of heterogeneity. Overall, closed population Huggins-Pledger estimators showed the highest precision and were most robust to sparse data, heterogeneity, and capture probability correlation among sampling types. Results also indicate that these estimators can be used when a segment of the population has zero capture probability for one of the methods. We propose that this general methodology may be useful for other species in which mark–recapture data are available from multiple sources.