A shot in the dark: White and infrared LED flash camera traps yield similar detection probabilities for common urban mammal species
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Humane Rescue Alliance, 71 Oglethorpe Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20011
2Department of Environmental Science and Policy - George Mason University College of Sciences, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax VA 22030
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, 1500 Remount Road, Front Royal VA 22630
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 W Jones Street, Raleigh NC 27601
Online publication date: 2021-06-01
Corresponding author
Daniel J. Herrera   

Humane Rescue Alliance, 71 Oglethorpe Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20011
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2021;32(1):72-75
Camera trap surveys use infrared-flash camera traps more frequently than white-flash camera traps due to claims that white-flash cameras impact animal behaviour and reduce capture rates. While several studies have examined the impact of white-flash on individual behaviour, few have assessed the effect of flash-type on probability of detection. We used nightly detection histories for seven mammal species common to North American cities using both infrared and white-flash LED camera traps across Washington, D.C., USA, to assess potential differences in the two flash-types. Our results revealed that flash-type did not affect the detection probabilities for four of these species. Infrared-flash cameras yielded higher probabilities of detection for the remaining three species analysed, but the overlapping confidence intervals of detection probabilities from LED white-flash and infrared-flash cameras suggest that there is little evidence that flash-type impacts the inferences drawn from surveys using LED white-flash cameras. Additionally, LED white-flash cameras produce photographs better suited for identification of both species and individuals when unique markings are present. Depending on a study’s objectives, a greater capacity for species and individual identification may warrant the moderately lower detection probabilities produced by white-flash camera traps.
We wish to thank Tyler Flockhart, Lauren Lipsey, Erin Robinson, and Sam Decker for their administrative assistance throughout the project, Justin Belsley, Claire Bresnan, Elly Grant, Neha Singh and Sam Newkirk for their assistance in data collection, and Jen Zhao, Haydee Hernandez-Yanez, Helen Bontrager, Ashley Whipple, Johnny Stutzman, Ben Ranelli, Emily Renkey, and Jamie Fetherolf for their assistance with data processing and storage.
Major financial support was provided by: PetSmart Charities, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Rescue Alliance, Winn Feline Foundation, Maddie’s Fund, Cat Depot and B. Von Gontard.
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