SREL Reprint #0804




Terrestrial Drift Fences with Pitfall Traps:  An Effective Technique for Quantitative Sampling of Animal Populations



J. Whitfield Gibbons and Raymond D. Semlitsch I. Lehr Brisbin, Jr., Edward A. Standora and Michael J. Vargo


The terrestrial drift fence with pitfall traps is a commonly used technique to collect and quantitatively sample populations of certain vertebrate and invertebrate species.  However, a variety of limitations, advantages, biases, and contingencies must be considered to use the method most effectively.  The best materials to use for these fences and traps have been aluminum flashing and plastic 20-liter buckets.  Aluminum flashing is rigid and does not deteriorate with age.  Large plastic buckets permit the capture of many species that can escape from small can traps.  Maintenance, such as filling cracks or escape from small can traps.  Maintenance, such as filling cracks or holes along the fence, bailing water from traps, and mowing vegetation alongside fences, are necessary for continued effectiveness.  Initial cost of construction is high, both in time and money; however, drift fences are cost effective for most ecological studies.  Biases result primarily from variation in morphology, ecology, and behavior of species, or as a consequence of design and the manner in which the drift fence is checked and maintained.  

SREL Reprint #0804


Gibbons, J.W. and R.D. Semlitsch. 1981. Terrestrial drift fences with pitfall traps: An effective technique for quantitative sampling of animal populations. Brimleyana 7:1-6


To request a reprint