Estimating survival of a streamside salamander: Importance of temporary emigration, capture response, and location

Steven J. Price, Evan A. Eskew, Kristen K. Cecala, Robert A. Browne, Michael E. Dorcas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Estimating survival for highly secretive aquatic animals, such as stream salamanders, presents numerous challenges. Salamanders often spend a considerable time in refugia where they are difficult to capture. Few studies have calculated vital rates for stream salamanders, yet the need is substantial as they are threatened by a wide range of land-use stressors, especially urban development. In this study, we used 34 months of continuous field samples collected at an urban and undisturbed stream and robust design mark-recapture analysis to evaluate the importance of temporary emigration, capture response, and location on survival estimates of the salamander Desmognathus fuscus. We constructed a set of candidate models incorporating combinations of time- and location-varying capture and recapture probabilities, capture responses, temporary emigration, and survival estimates and ranked models using Akaike's Information Criterion. We found strong support for month-specific capture probabilities, recapture probabilities, temporary emigration and a negative behavioral response to capture in the majority of months. We found no support for variation in capture probabilities, recapture probabilities, and temporary emigration between locations. However, we found that location strongly influenced survival estimates. Specifically, survival estimates were significantly higher at the undisturbed site than at the urban site. Our results emphasize the importance of estimating capture probabilities, recapture probabilities, capture response, and temporary emigration when evaluating survival in highly secretive aquatic animals. Failure to account for these population parameters will likely yield biased estimates of survival in freshwater animal populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-215
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
comments that greatly improved the study. This material is based on work supported by the Department of Energy under award DE-FC-09-075R22506. Funding was provided by the Department of Biology at Davidson College, the Davidson Research Initiative funded by the Duke Endowment, the Department of Biology at Wake Forest University, National Science Foundation grant (DEB-0347326) to M.E.D., and Duke Power.


  • Capture-mark-recapture
  • Desmognathus fuscus
  • Detection probability
  • First-order streams
  • Robust design
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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