Utility of Visual Counts for Determining Efficacy of Management Tools for California Ground Squirrels
Visual counts are frequently used to assess efficacy of management tools for ground squirrels (Marmotini), but the effectiveness of this approach has not been assessed for many ground squirrel species including California ground squirrels (Otospermophilus spp.). As such, we used visual counts of California ground squirrels to determine the efficacy of diphacinone-treated oat groat applications in rangelands in central California, USA, and compared those results to efficacy values derived from
... e use of radio-collared ground squirrels in the same plots. We also used location data of radio-collared ground squirrels to explore the size of buffer zone needed around census plots to provide an accurate assessment of efficacy when using visual counts. We did not observe a difference in efficacy associated with the 2 monitoring strategies, indicating that visual counts are an effective monitoring tool for ground squirrels. We observed low efficacy in 2 treatment plots, likely due to low usage of those plots by ground squirrels. Increasing the size of buffer zones would increase the usage of treatment areas by the target population and would help to minimize reinvasion by adjacent ground squirrel populations, which could bias efficacy values low. We suggest a minimum of a 61-m buffer surrounding census plots. Increasing to 66 m or more would further benefit efficacy assessments, but increased size of the buffer zone must be balanced with greater costs and regulatory constraints.