Observer differences in individual identification of feral cats from camera trap images

Article


Sparkes, Jessica and Fleming, Peter J. S.. 2022. "Observer differences in individual identification of feral cats from camera trap images." Australian Mammalogy. 45 (1), pp. 32-40. https://doi.org/10.1071/AM21030
Article Title

Observer differences in individual identification of feral cats from camera trap images

ERA Journal ID2836
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsSparkes, Jessica and Fleming, Peter J. S.
Journal TitleAustralian Mammalogy
Journal Citation45 (1), pp. 32-40
Number of Pages9
Year2022
PublisherCSIRO Publishing
Place of PublicationAustralia
ISSN0310-0049
1836-7402
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1071/AM21030
Web Address (URL)https://www.publish.csiro.au/AM/AM21030
Abstract

Feral cats are a key threat to many Australian native fauna, with camera traps increasingly used to identify individuals for evaluation of management actions. However, observer bias and camera trap settings can affect individual identification rates. We compared feral cat individual identification by two observers with extremes of experience. Arrays of 39–50 camera traps were deployed continuously for 22 months at four sites in the Western Division of New South Wales. Where possible, feral cats were individually identified from phenotypic characteristics by an expert and naïve lay observer. We obtained 10 465 feral cat images, with 72 cats individually identified across the sites. The experienced observer attributed more feral cat events to a known individual compared with the lay observer (21.3 vs 12.9%, respectively). Forty three percent of cat images were similarly tagged by both observers. Daytime events yielded higher identification rates and match success (28.1 vs 19.5 and 17.9 vs 11.8% for day vs night events for the expert and lay observer, respectively). Lack of congruence between observers, combined with a small number of events where cats could be individually identified, and differences in identification accuracy over time and between sites, makes estimation of detection probabilities and errors difficult.

Keywordscitizen science; Reconyx; population estimates; monitoring pelag; pest animal; management; Felis catus; conservation
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Byline AffiliationsDepartment of Primary Industries, New South Wales
University of New England
Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems
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