Best practices to account for capture probability and viewable area in camera-based abundance estimation

Anna K. Moeller, Scott J. Waller, Nicholas J. DeCesare, M. Colter Chitwood, Paul M. Lukacs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A suite of recently developed statistical methods to estimate the abundance and density of unmarked animals from camera traps require accurate estimates of the area sampled by each camera. Although viewshed area is fundamental to achieving accurate abundance estimates, there are no established guidelines for collecting this information in the field. Furthermore, while the complexities of the detection process from motion sensor photography are generally acknowledged, viewable area (the common factor between motion sensor and time lapse photography) on its own has been underemphasized. We establish a common set of terminology to identify the component parts of viewshed area, contrast the photographic capture process and area measurements for time lapse and motion sensor photography, and review methods for estimating viewable area in the field. We use a case study to demonstrate the importance of accurate estimates of viewable area on abundance estimates. Time lapse photography combined with accurate measurements of viewable area allow researchers to assume that capture probability equals 1. Motion sensor photography requires measuring distances to each animal and fitting a distance sampling curve to account for capture probability of <1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-164
Number of pages13
JournalRemote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • camera trap
  • capture probability
  • motion sensor photography
  • time lapse photography
  • viewable area
  • viewshed area


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