An assessment of the efficacy of rub stations for detection and abundance surveys of Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)

Mar 22, 2018

Barbed and scented rub pads that rely on a cheek-rubbing behavioural response are a standard survey design that has been used extensively across the range of Canada lynx. However, there have not been any published studies evaluating the effectiveness of rub stations for detecting lynx by comparing other simultaneous survey methods. In addition, the majority of Canada lynx surveys have been conducted to detect species occupancy but not to estimate abundance over a given area.  We used a combination of paired rub stations and remote cameras at 41 sites to compare detection probabilities between the two methods and conduct a mark-recapture population estimate of Canada lynx in our study area using data from rub stations to further interpret our findings. The detection probability calculated using cameras approached 1.0 for most of the winter season (mean  = 0.88), while it remained less than 0.52 for hair rub stations (mean = 0.27). The low and variable detection probability using hair snags, high detection probability using cameras, and the potential gender or individual bias in rubbing behaviour based on our mark-recapture analysis suggest rub stations are not the most efficient survey method available for Canada lynx. Until additional research incorporating spatial scale, seasonal timing, gender bias, and survey design is conducted, we urge caution in the use of hair stations that rely on the cheek-rubbing behaviour of Canada lynx.