Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Wildland Resources


Mary M. Conner


Johan Du Toit

Third Advisor:

Clinton W. Epps


Estimates of population abundance and survival are critical for effective wildlife management. Obtaining estimates of these kind using traditional wildlife monitoring techniques (i.e. ground and aerial surveys) has proven to be difficult, especially for species that are wide ranging and exist in small, patchily distributed populations.

My objective was to implement fecal DNA-based capture-recapture surveys to estimate abundance and survival of two different ungulate populations that inhabit the deserts of southeastern California. I also compared fecal DNA-based capture-recapture techniques to traditional methods by evaluating the costs and precision associated with both methods. Using artificial water sources as focal sampling sites, I performed sampling during the summers of 2015, 2016, and 2017 in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts of California. I was able to obtain reasonably precise estimates of abundance and survival for both species.

To my knowledge, my study provides the first abundance and survival estimates of desert mule deer in California in over 13 years. Additionally, my study shows that when compared to traditional methods, fecal DNA-based capture recapture techniques can achieve much higher precision at a fraction of the cost.