Citation Kubasiewicz LM, Minderman J, Woodall L, Quine CP, Coope R & Park K (2016) Fur and faeces: an experimental assessment of non-invasive DNA sampling for the European pine marten. Mammal Research, 61 (4), pp. 299-307. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-016-0276-y
Abstract Non-invasive genetic sampling using materials such as faeces or hair can be used to monitor wildlife populations, although DNA quality is often poor. Improving sampling efficiency and minimising factors that reduce DNA quality are therefore critical. After a severe decline, the European pine marten, Martes martes, has reclaimed much of its former range in Scotland, UK. Recording this rapid range expansion requires developing techniques for accurate monitoring, but this is hampered by the species' elusive behaviour. We tested two sampling methods, hair collected from hair tubes and faeces (scat) collected along tracks, to assess the effects of key environmental and sampling variables on DNA quality and sampling efficiency. For hair, we tested the influence of hair tube location (distance from forest tracks) on collection rate and sex ratio of animals successfully sampled. For scats, we assessed the effect of time since defecation (1 to 16days) on genotyping error rates and success under two contrasting environmental conditions (exposed to rainfall or sheltered). We found no bias in the collection rate or sex ratio of animals detected by hair samples with differing proximity to forest tracks. DNA amplification failure for scats exposed to rainfall increased from 28 to 65% over the 16-day experimental period. During periods of low rainfall, the length of collection sessions could therefore be extended to increase sample number without risk of DNA degradation. Lack of bias in hair collection rates with proximity to forest tracks provides justification for tube placement close to tracks, as this reduces survey effort. These findings provide guidance for the development of efficient and cost-effective non-invasive sampling of Scottish pine martens.