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Using morphometrics to quantitatively differentiate African wild dog footprints from domestic dog footprints – a pilot study

Scharis, Inger, Rasmussen, Gregory S. A., Laska, Matthias
African journal of ecology 2016 v.54 no.1 pp. 3-8
Canis lupus, Lycaon pictus, computer software, conflict management, dogs, females, feral animals, image analysis, inventories, males, morphometry, photographs, species identification, wildlife management
Reliable population estimation and species inventories are important for wildlife conservation, but such estimations are often difficult due to unreliable identification of the species in question. Furthermore, for predator conflict resolution, it is essential to be able to reliably identify the predator. This study presents a new method to quantitatively distinguish African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) footprints from feral domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) footprints. Footprint photographs were digitally processed using Photoshop and the NIH image processing software ImageJ, and total pad area and angles between the centroids of the backpad and the digits of the paw were measured. Pad angles showed statistically significant differences between the two species and, with the exception that there was no significant difference in pad area between African wild dog females and domestic dog males, total pad areas were also diagnostic. Consequently, the combination of total pad area and the angle between backpad and digits are useful discriminators to reliably identify the species from an unknown footprint.