It has long been recognized that age‐structure data contain useful information for assessing the status and dynamics of wildlife populations. For example, age‐specific survival rates can be estimated with just a single sample from the age distribution of a stable, stationary population. For a population that is not stable, age‐specific survival rates can be estimated using techniques such as inverse methods that combine time series of age‐structure data with other demographic data. However, estimation of survival rates using these methods typically requires numerical optimization, a relatively long time series of data, and smoothing or other constraints to provide useful estimates. We developed general models for possibly unstable populations that combine time series of age‐structure data with other demographic data to provide explicit maximum likelihood estimators of age‐specific survival rates with as few as two years of data. As an example, we applied these methods to estimate survival rates for female bison (Bison bison) in Yellowstone National Park, USA. This approach provides a simple tool for monitoring survival rates based on age‐structure data.
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