VISIBILITY BIAS AND DEVELOPMENT OF A SIGHTABILITY MODEL FOR TULE ELK
Tule elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes) are endemic to California, USA, and occupy habitats that differ greatly from those inhabited by many other elk populations. Because of the importance of demographic data to the conservation of this unique ungulate, we used telemetered animals to investigate factors influencing sightability of elk during aerial surveys. We determined if groups of elk known to be present in sampling blocks were observed or missed during survey flights. Stepwise logistic regression indicated that sightability was significantly affected by animal activity, habitat type, and group size. We developed a model to predict the likelihood of observing a group of elk, and provide recommendations for the use of correction factors for sightability during future surveys.
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