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Detection dogs allow for systematic non-invasive collection of DNA samples from Eurasian lynx

Hollerbach, Laura, Heurich, Marco, Reiners, Tobias Erik, Nowak, Carsten
Mammalian biology = 2018 v.90 pp. 42-46
DNA, Lynx lynx, camera trapping, dogs, feces, forest roads, genetic variation, models, national parks, population growth, probability, surveys, Central European region, Germany
As Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) show signs of population recovery in parts of Central Europe, sound monitoring strategies are required to study population expansion, connectivity and genetic diversity. While non-invasive DNA sampling strategies could serve this task, genetic samples of lynx are generally hard to locate. To test the suitability of dog-based sampling we searched scat samples of lynx in the Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany, with two trained detection dog teams. In 44 grid cells of 2 × 2 km, dog teams covered 440 km of predetermined forest road and hiking trail transects during the four week survey. A total of 169 collected samples resulted in 52 genetically confirmed lynx detections, of which 26 were assigned to 11 individuals. Using a single-season site occupancy model we found a detection probability of 0.13/km (SD = 0.02), with 10 km of dog search per grid cell required to get a 70 % probability to detect lynx presence. Our results show that detection dogs are an appropriate tool for systematic genetic lynx monitoring. We argue that detection dog-assisted genetic monitoring may supplement monitoring strategies based on conventional camera trapping, especially when aiming to monitor genetic diversity and population connectivity.