A comparison of three methods to evaluate otter latrine activity

Nelda A. Rivera, Samantha Totoni, Kathryn Monick, Ting Tian, Michelle L. Green, Jan Novakofski, Nohra E. Mateus-Pinilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We compared methods commonly used in the field of river otter (Lontra canadensis) ecology to estimate visitation rates. We evaluated visitation rates estimated from 2 survey protocols based on video detection—individual visitation rate (IVR) and recording visitation rate (RVR)—and one indirect method based on scat detection—scat visitation rate (SVR). From August 2011 through August 2012, overall scat detection and cumulative video data from 403 camera-days in 2 latrine sites (River and Pond, at a study site adjacent to the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River near Fairmount, Illinois, USA) located <50 m apart did not reveal monthly or seasonal differences between SVR and video detection methods. We identified positive correlations among the 3 visitation rates and differences between overall IVR and RVR. All 3 methods resulted in peak visitation rates during winter. However, when these data were stratified by latrine site, we found both positive and negative correlations at the River latrine. Our work supports that SVR, IVR, and RVR are valuable methods to estimate otter visitation rates at latrine sites. However, it is clear that even within such a short distance between these 2 latrines, these methods detected differences in site utilization. The significant positive correlation observed between IVR and RVR (overall and by latrine site) suggests these methods can be used interchangeably. Otter detection using SVR may serve as a complementary assessment tool for IVR and RVR. To optimize cross-study comparisons and interpretation of results, future studies should detail the type of otter detection and visitation rate used, how variables are measured, formulas used in the calculation of the visitation rates, and detailed descriptions of scat counting efforts when using scat as a tool to evaluate otter visitation rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-207
Number of pages10
JournalWildlife Society Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Lontra canadensis
  • consistency
  • repeatability
  • scat detection
  • spraint detection
  • visitation rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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