Comparing the effectiveness of tracking methods for medium to large-sized mammals of Pantanal


Zoologia (Curitiba)




Most Neotropical mammals are not easily observed in their habitats, and few studies have been conducted to compare the performance of methods designed to register their tracks. We compared the effectiveness of track registry between sand plots and two tracking methods that use artificial materials to record tracks: the sooted paper, and the plastic board methods. The latter is described here for the first time. From 2002 to 2005, we conducted two experiments in three study sites in the Pantanal region of Brazil. We compared the artificial methods with the sand plot by registering track presence/absence, the number of identifiable tracks, and the total number of tracks (identifiable and unrecognizable) in each tracking plot. Individuals avoided artificial tracking plots either by not stepping on them or by doing it fewer times than on the sand plots. The use of artificial materials to register mammal tracks resulted in underestimates that are especially relevant to short-term ecological studies. We recommend the use of the traditional sand plot method whenever possible and the development of detailed studies on the efficiency of artificial methods under a variety of environmental conditions and time lengths. Despite their relatively lower efficiency, we believe that artificial methods are useful under specific conditions and may be more efficient if used in more comprehensive sampling efforts.

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