Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 1213–1230 | Cite as

Surveying carnivores at large spatial scales: a comparison of four broad-applied methods

  • José Miguel Barea-Azcón
  • Emilio Virgós
  • Elena Ballesteros-Duperón
  • Marcos Moleón
  • Manuel Chirosa
Original Paper


Reliable methods to estimate species richness are very important to managers and conservationists because they provide key data to make the right decisions in conservation programmes. In the case of carnivore mammals, traditional methods, such as direct count censuses, are not useful since these animals are usually scarce, elusive and nocturnal. Difficulties in carnivore sampling are compounded when monitoring programmes are developed at large spatial scales, where high economic costs and field efforts are necessary to achieve reliable richness or abundance estimates. These problems have highlighted the need to find more effective carnivore survey methods, especially in regions with high rates of landscape change, such as the Mediterranean basin. The present study, performed in a typical Mediterranean area, was the first in Europe to test simultaneously the relative efficiencies of four broad-applied sampling methods to detect carnivore species at large spatial scales. Sign surveys based on scat detection, scent stations, camera-trapping and live-trapping were investigated. We compared efficiencies using biological parameters and by considering both the logistic and economic costs of each method. Overall, scent stations and sign surveys were the most efficient methods both in economic and logistic terms. In addition, the use of scent stations may be necessary to detect species rarely detected by scats. Detailed and extensive training programmes for conducting sign surveys and scent stations may overcome perceived problems thus enhancing the widespread use of both methods. Our results are applicable not only to other Mediterranean areas, but also to other habitats and regions of the world. More research into the suitability of these and other methods in relation to different landscapes, seasons and species is required.


Carnivore conservation Economic costs Mediterranean region Large-scale monitoring Relative abundance Species richness 



We are very grateful to José M. Gil-Sánchez, Manuel Otero, Rogelio López, Francisco Martín, José F. Sánchez-Clemot and Juan Bellido for their assistance during the field work. Miguel Á. Simón, Ignacio Maldonado, Rafael Cadenas and Ramón Suárez for their logistical assistance. We also thank the people of the Delegación Provincia de Granada of the Consejería de Medio Ambiente (Junta de Andalucía), Egmasa (Empresa de Gestión Medio Ambiental. Consejería de Medio Ambiente. Junta de Andalucía) and the Endangered Species Recovery Centre “El Blanqueo”. We thank Prof. Peter Jeffries, University of Kent, UK, for improving the English editing of this manuscript. We also thank the useful comments and improvements of an anonymous referee. This work has been supported by the project “Carnivore mammals in the Granada province: distribution, status and management”, conducted by the Consejería de Medio Ambiente (Junta de Andalucía).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Miguel Barea-Azcón
    • 1
  • Emilio Virgós
    • 2
  • Elena Ballesteros-Duperón
    • 1
  • Marcos Moleón
    • 1
    • 3
  • Manuel Chirosa
    • 4
  1. 1.Empresa de Gestión Medio AmbientalConsejería de Medio AmbienteGranadaSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Matemáticas, Física Aplicada y Ciencias de la Naturaleza, Área de Biodiversidad y ConservaciónEscuela Superior de Ciencias Experimentales y TecnologíaMóstoles, MadridSpain
  3. 3.Departamento de Biología Animal y Ecología, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de GranadaGranadaSpain
  4. 4.Centro de Investigación y Formación Agraria (CIFA)GranadaSpain

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