Pedroso, N.M., Dias, S.V., Dinis-Reis, T.R., Santos-Reis, M. & Verdade, L.M. (2018) Non-invasive hair sampling of neotropical otters.Biota Neotropica, 18(4), e20180579. DOI:10.1590/1676-0611-bn-2018-0579 (IF2018 1,277; Q3 Biodiversity Conservation)
Sampling wild animal populations using non-invasive techniques is advised when dealing with threatened species. Hair samples provide ecological information like species and individual identification. However, hair trapping is scarcely used in otters, due to their aquatic habits. Most studies are with captive individuals, so there is the need to test non-invasive hair trapping methods in otters in the wild. The aim of this study was to develop a simple and cost-effective method to collect hair from otter species in a non-invasive way. The study was carried out in the Paranapanema River, São Paulo State, Brazil, with the Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis Olfers, 1818), a protected species. Hair traps (wooden sticks and tree roots with adhesive tape or wax bands) were set during six nights on river banks, otter trails and scent-marking sites. Traps were baited with otter fresh spraints from other river locations. From the 23 traps, 10 (43.7%) were successful in collecting otter hairs, mostly guard-hair. The sticks were much more efficient than the roots at capturing otter hair (70.6.% vs. 0%) as well as adhesive tape when compared to wax (71.4% vs. 0%). Method simplicity and efficiency suggest that it can be a cost-effective way for collecting otter hairs without the need for capturing individuals. This method can be used for: assessment of local otter distribution; collecting otter hair samples for sex and individual identification (by molecular analysis), trophic ecology (by isotopic analyses), ecotoxicology (by contamination analysis) or behaviour ecology (by hormonal and stress levels analysis). More trapping campaigns should be implemented to further test the method's efficiency.