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Journal of Mammalogy






Oxford University Press

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Molecular forensics is an important component of wildlife research and management. Using DNA from noninvasive samples collected at predation sites, we can identify predator species and obtain individual genotypes, improving our understanding of predator–prey dynamics and impacts of predators on livestock and endangered species. To improve sample collection strategies, we tested two sample collection methods and estimated degradation rates of predator DNA on the carcasses of multiple prey species. We fed carcasses of calves (Bos taurus) and lambs (Ovis aires) to three captive predator species: wolves (Canis lupus), coyotes (C. latrans), and mountain lions (Puma concolor). We swabbed the carcass in the field, as well as removed a piece of hide from the carcasses and then swabbed it in the laboratory. We swabbed all tissue samples through time and attempted to identify the predator involved in the depredation using salivary DNA. We found the most successful approach for yielding viable salivary DNA was removing hide from the prey and swabbing it in the laboratory. As expected, genotyping error increased through time and our ability to obtain complete genotypes decreased over time, the latter falling below 50% after 24 h. We provide guidelines for sampling salivary DNA from tissues of depredated carcasses for maximum probability of detection.