Snow tracking is often used to inventory carnivore communities, but species identification using this method can produce ambiguous and misleading results. DNA can be extracted from hair and scat samples collected from tracks made in snow. Using DNA analysis could allow positive track identification across a broad range of snow conditions, thus increasing survey accuracy and efficiency. We investigated the efficacy of DNA identification using hairs and scats collected during the winter along putative Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) snow tracks and compared our findings to those obtained using hair-snaring techniques during the summer. We were able to positively identify 81% and 98% of the hair and scat samples, respectively, that were collected in or near snow tracks. Samples containing amplifiable lynx DNA were collected at rates of 1.2-1.3 per km of lynx tracks followed. These amplification rates and encounter frequencies validate the collection and use of DNA samples from snow tracks as a feasible technique for identifying Canada lynx and possibly other rare carnivores. We recommend that biologists include the collection of hairs and scats for DNA analysis as part of snow-tracking surveys whenever species identification is a high priority.
McKelvey, Kevin S.; von Kienast, Jeffrey; Aubry, Keith B.; Koehler, Gary M.; Maletzke, Bejamin T.; Squires, John R.; Lindquist, Edward L.; Loch, Steve; Schwartz, Michael K. 2006. DNA analysis of hair and scat collected along snow tracks to document the presence of Canada Lynx. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 34(2): 451-455