How quoll-ified are northern and spotted-tailed quoll detection dogs?

Jamieson, La Toya J. and Hancock, Amanda L. and Baxter, Greg S. and Murray, Peter J. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1143-1706 (2021) How quoll-ified are northern and spotted-tailed quoll detection dogs? Wildlife Research, 48 (4). pp. 376-384. ISSN 1035-3712


Abstract

Context
Wildlife detection dogs have been used globally in environmental monitoring. However, their effectiveness in the Australian context has been only minimally researched. Increased understanding of detection dog accuracy and efficacy is required for their inclusion in survey guidelines used by proponents of referred actions potentially impacting Australia’s threatened mammals. Evaluation of new methods is also important for advancing population monitoring, particularly for threatened species.

Aims
To determine the efficacy of wildlife detection dogs as a survey tool for low-density, cryptic species, using northern (Dasyurus hallucatus) and spotted-tailed (D. maculatus) quolls as subjects. We compared detection dogs, human search effort and camera trapping results, in simulated accuracy and efficacy trials, and field surveys.

Methods
Two wildlife detection dogs’ scores for sensitivity (ability to identify a target species scat) and specificity (ability to distinguish target from non-target species scats) were calculated during accuracy trials. The dogs were tested using 288 samples, of which 32 were targets, where northern and spotted-tailed quoll scat were the targets in separate trials. Survey efficacy was determined following completing 12 simulated surveys (6 per target species) involving a single, randomly placed scat sample in a 1–1.5 ha search area. During the northern quoll simulated surveys the dogs’ survey efficacy was compared with that of a human surveyor. The dogs also undertook field surveys for both northern and spotted-tailed quolls, in conjunction with camera trapping for comparison.

Key results
During accuracy trials the dogs had an average sensitivity and specificity respectively of 100% and 98.4% for northern quoll, and 100% and 98% for spotted-tailed quoll. Their average search time in efficacy trials for northern quoll was 11.07 min (significantly faster than the human surveyor), and 2.98 min for spotted-tailed quoll in the 1–1.5 ha search areas. During field surveys, northern quoll scats were detected at sites where camera trapping failed to determine their presence. No spotted-tailed quoll scat was detected by the dogs during field surveys.

Conclusions
Trained and experienced detection dogs can work very accurately and efficiently, which is vital to their field success. Detection dogs are therefore capable of detecting evidence of species presence where alternative methods may be unsuccessful.

Implications
Our study supports the future use of highly trained detection dogs for wildlife surveys and monitoring in Australia. Our results demonstrate that detection dogs can be highly accurate and are a beneficial stand-alone or complimentary method.


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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Sciences (6 Sep 2019 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Sciences (6 Sep 2019 -)
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2021 04:13
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2021 06:12
Uncontrolled Keywords: accuracy, detection dogs, efficacy, field surveys, quolls
Fields of Research (2008): 06 Biological Sciences > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour
05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity
05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management
Fields of Research (2020): 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410407 Wildlife and habitat management
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310901 Animal behaviour
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960999 Land and Water Management of Environments not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180699 Terrestrial systems and management not elsewhere classified
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180601 Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180606 Terrestrial biodiversity
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1071/WR19243
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/41518

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