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Wildlife collision data are ubiquitous, though challenging for making ecological inference due to typically irreducible uncertainty relating to the sampling process. We illustrate a new approach that is useful for generating inference from predator data arising from wildlife collisions. By simply conditioning on a second prey species sampled via the same collision process, and by using a biologically realistic numerical response functions, we can produce a coherent numerical response relationship between predator and prey. This relationship can then be used to make inference on the population size of the predator species, including the probability of extinction. The statistical conditioning enables us to account for unmeasured variation in factors influencing the runway strike incidence for individual airports and to enable valid comparisons. A practical application of the approach for testing hypotheses about the distribution and abundance of a predator species is illustrated using the hypothesized red fox incursion into Tasmania, Australia. We estimate that conditional on the numerical response between fox and lagomorph runway strikes on mainland Australia, the predictive probability of observing no runway strikes of foxes in Tasmania after observing 15 lagomorph strikes is 0.001. We conclude there is enough evidence to safely reject the null hypothesis that there is a widespread red fox population in Tasmania at a population density consistent with prey availability. The method is novel and has potential wider application.
This is a submission to PeerJ for review.
Summarized runway strike data as analysed
Number of runway strikes for red foxes and lagomorphs (European hares & rabbits) recorded in Australian states and territories over the period 2002--2014. Source: Australian Traffic Safety Bureau.
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