Winter bait stations as a multispecies survey tool

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Ecology and Evolution, Volume 7, Issue 17, p.6826–6838 (2017)

Call Number:




American marten, bobcat, Coyote, fisher, long-tailed weasel


Winter bait stations are becoming a commonly used technique for multispecies inventory and monitoring, but a technical evaluation of their effectiveness is lacking. Bait stations have three components: carcass attractant, remote camera, and hair snare. Our 22,975-km2 mountainous study area was stratified with a 5 × 5-km sampling grid centered on northern Idaho and including portions of Washington, Montana, and British Columbia. From 2010–2014, we conducted 563 sampling sessions at 497 bait stations in 453 5 × 5-km cells. We evaluated the effectiveness of cameras and hair snare DNA collection at stations to detect species and individual animals, factors affecting DNA viability, the effectiveness of re-visiting stations, and the influence of elevation, seasonality, and latency on species detections. Cameras were more effective at detecting multiple species than DNA hair snaring. Length of deployment time and elevation increased genetic species ID success, but individual ID success rates were increased only by collecting hairs earlier in the season. Re-visiting stations did not change camera or genetic species detection results but did increase the number of individual genotypes identified. Marten and fisher were detected quickly while bobcat and coyote showed longer latency to detection. Seasonality significantly affected coyote and bobcat detections but not marten, fisher, or weasel. Multispecies bait station study design should incorporate mixed elevation sites with stratified seasonality. Priority should be given to including cameras as components of bait stations over hair snares, unless there is a specific genetic goal to the study. A hair snare component should be added, however, if individual ID or genetic data are necessary. Winter stations should be deployed a minimum of 45–60 days to allow for detection of low density species and species with long latency to detection times. Hair samples should be collected prior to DNA-degrading late season rain events. Re-visiting stations does not change which species are detected at stations; therefore, studies with objectives to delineate species presence or distribution will be more effective if they focus on deploying more stations across a broader landscape in lieu of surveying the same site multiple times.


ELECTRONIC FILE - Zoology: Mammals

Suggested citation (for online version):
Robinson L, Cushman SA, Lucid MK. Winter bait stations as a multispecies survey tool. Ecol Evol. 2017;7:6826–6838.

First appeared online in 17 Jul 2017, in print, Sep 2017.