Estimating the Survival of Unmarked Young From Repeated Counts

18 October 2019

Lyons, Timothy; Stodola, Kirk; Benson, Thomas

Estimating the survival of juveniles is important to the study of ecology and wildlife management. Methods to estimate survival from uniquely marked young are generally preferred but may be difficult to implement. Alternative methods to estimate juvenile survival based on counts of unmarked young with marked parents generally do not account for detection probability or encounter difficulty estimating survival when there are > 5 offspring. We developed a hierarchical Bayesian model to estimate survival of unmarked offspring from known (marked) parents from a minimum of 2 counts on while accounting for imperfect detection. We simulated data to evaluate the performance of the model across a range of detection probabilities and sample sizes and to explore violations of some model assumptions. We then demonstrate the utility of this approach by estimating chick survival for a population of ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) in east-central Illinois, USA. Mean error of parameter estimates decreased with increasing sample sizes and detection probability and was greater for covariate coefficients, compared to mean detection or survival probabilities. However, posterior distributions of mean survival and detection parameters were poorly estimated and had small effective sample sizes when the mean detection probability was