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Estimating the prevalence of Vancouver hipsters using capture-recapture method

April 8, 2010 | by  |  Drunk in Vancouver, Features


It is widely speculated that the Hipster is one of the fastest growing mammalian species in Metro Vancouver (Haddow, 2008; Henley, 2005), but to date these statements have amounted to little more than conjecture.

Efforts to obtain a reliable Hipster count through conventional human population surveys have been confounded by physical appearance, grouping habits and migration patterns.

Capture-recapture techniques are commonly used to estimate the size of elusive subject groups. Here we apply a simple capture-recapture method to Hipsters in Vancouver.


Traditional methods of population estimation have proven ineffective when applied to Hipsters.

Photo Credit: Jesse Donaldson

One of the main factors preventing a regular count of the Hipster is its physical appearance. Plaid and stripes break up body outlines, and a group of Hipsters standing close together is often indistinguishable from a single individual. Black skinny jeans or leggings serve a similar purpose, confusing the eyes of predators, and rendering counts through direct observation unreliable.

Further complicating the task is the elusive nature of the Hipster. By definition, a Hipster hangout is a place you’ve never heard of, and once outsiders identify a culturally-significant location, it is quickly abandoned in favour of a new, unknown venue.

To overcome these difficulties, we have employed a simple two-capture formula commonly used in marine ecology. This method is based on the probability of encountering the same Hipster following two subsequent sampling sessions.

Expressed as a formula:

N = Total Hipster population
R = Total Hipsters captured in Sample 1
P= Total Hipsters captured in Sample 2
X = Count of Hipsters captured in Sample 1 and Sample 2

Subjects were isolated from the group at random for capture then marked for future identification. To avoid unnecessary injury or distress individuals were marked by sleeve tattoos. The employment of this identification method was preferred, as it seemed to have no effect on the subject’s subsequent survival or reintegration back into its cohort.

Before release individuals were measured for beard length, pant cuff tension, and general distaste for all things the examiner liked using the Pearson-Polanowski test.

Photo Credit: Jesse Donaldson

Data and Findings

Sample 1 was taken at a Red Cedar / Yukon Blonde CD Release Party, where 413 unique individuals were cataloged entering the premises. Sample 2, taken at the ASTORIA ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY PARTY!!! realized a count of 370 individuals, 2 of which had been observed in Sample 1.


N = 413*370 / 2

N = 76,405

Supplementary Data and Discussion

While Hipster numbers appear generally healthy, observations made during Sample 2 at The Astoria support the hypothesis that their numbers are actually on the decline.

Ostensibly, the Hipster is a pack animal, but despite repeated observation, no discernible Alpha Male has been identified. Unlike other pack mammals, both male and female hipsters engage in the act of display,  engaging in rhythmic courtship rituals and presenting their plaid plumage with no apparent preference for selection versus display.

Photo Credit: Jesse Donaldson

The creature’s poor eyesight, as evidenced by the proliferation of thick-rimmed glasses, further complicates the selection process, and may explain why of the 413 individuals sampled, only eight appeared to be active breeding pairs.

The dietary habits of the Hipster exert additional negative population pressure. Subjects at The Astoria were observed consuming large amounts of an offensive-tasting fermented beverage. Its low cost of acquisition ($3.75 per serving) appears to encourage an increase in its consumption.

While the variants ‘Pabst Blue Ribbon’, ‘Lucky Lager’, and ‘Pacific Pilsner’ are not consumed by the larger mammals of Granville Street, similar beverages there have also had decidedly negative effects on the health of local populations (Eustace, 2009).


The size of the Hipster community makes the lack of available data particularly concerning. The downward pressures exerted on the species support the hypothesis that they may actually be on the decline, making growth trending ever more important.

The health of the current population provides science with a tremendous opportunity to collect data on this elusive creature. Mating habits, home ranges, and dietary data, in addition to population counts, are critical for future conservation efforts.

Application of the capture-recapture method over multiple time periods is recommended to establish and monitor the ongoing trend, and scientists are encouraged to take up other avenues of data collection, lest we lose this strange and magnificent creature forever.

Matt Chambers is the editor and publisher of The Dependent Magazine. He's in way over his head.



  1. Can I come along and check out the hot girls next you guys go out?

  2. Only if it’s in the name of science.

  3. Sure, but you have to wear a lab coat…

  4. “Unlike other pack mammals, both male and female hipsters engage in the act of display, engaging in rhythmic courtship rituals and presenting their plaid plumage with no apparent preference for selection versus display.”


  5. I am wondering if this was peer reviewed.

  6. The estimate of population you used is known to be biased, particularly when recapture rates are low. For a better estimate, you should use the Schnabel estimate: (R+1)(P+1)/(X+1) – 1, which would make a better estimate of the number of hipsters 414*371/3 -1 = 51,197.

  7. Mark-recapture is used in most types of wildlife population studies, not just marine ecology.

    Second the Schnabel

    P.S. Totally hipster thing to do.

  8. Matt Chambers can research me anytime.


  1. The ecology of hipsters « Oikos Blog

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