Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Estimating mesocarnivore abundance on commercial farmland using distance sampling with camera traps

McKaughan, J.E.T.; Stephens, P.A.; Hill, R.A.

Estimating mesocarnivore abundance on commercial farmland using distance sampling with camera traps Thumbnail


Profile Image

James McKaughan
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy


1. Mesocarnivores are of particular interest in wildlife management. Their adaptability makes them a focus of public attention globally, as negative interactions with people occur regularly, but their importance to wider ecosystem function is increasingly apparent. Robust methods for estimating mesocarnivore densities are essential for long-term management strategies. Estimating densities of unmarked populations remains challenging, but new methods, based on camera trapping, have recently become available and require field testing. 2. We conducted two camera trap surveys over two 200km2 areas of commercial farmland in South Africa. One survey sampled 25 locations, while the second used a migrating grid to sample 59 locations; total sampling effort was similar across the two surveys. We applied distance sampling with camera traps (CTDS), developing a method to estimate animal distances by applying a distance measurement overlay grid to camera trap images. 3. We aimed to establish meaningful density estimates of the mesocarnivore guild and evaluate CTDS’s suitability for broader use with these types of species. We obtained density estimates for four carnivores, African civet (Civettictis civetta), black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea) and caracal (Caracal caracal), providing valuable insight into their status in commercial farmland. Imprecision in the estimates was almost exclusively due to encounter rate variance, which was not reduced with the migrating camera grid. 4. We explored the sensitivity of our results to assumptions determining the value of the 'snapshot interval', demonstrating that careful selection of this parameter is vital to ensuring reliable estimates when using rapid-fire photo burst modes. 5. CTDS can provide useful density estimates for mesocarnivores, but future studies should aim to maximise precision and reliability by increasing sampling locations. More studies are required in areas with known densities to promote confidence in accuracy.


McKaughan, J., Stephens, P., & Hill, R. (2023). Estimating mesocarnivore abundance on commercial farmland using distance sampling with camera traps. Ecological Solutions and Evidence, 4(2), Article e12229.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 23, 2023
Online Publication Date Apr 23, 2023
Publication Date 2023-04
Deposit Date Mar 23, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jun 26, 2023
Journal Ecological solutions and evidence.
Print ISSN 2688-8319
Publisher Wiley Open Access
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 2
Article Number e12229


Published Journal Article (4.8 Mb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Authors. Ecological Solutions and Evidence published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations