Effects of sample size and sampling frequency on studies of brown bear home ranges and habitat use

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We equipped 9 brown bears (Ursus arctos) on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, with collars containing both conventional very-high-frequency (VHF) transmitters and global positioning system (GPS) receivers programmed to determine an animal's position at 5.75-hr intervals. We calculated minimum convex polygon (MCP) and fixed and adaptive kernel home ranges for randomly-selected subsets of the GPS data to examine the effects of sample size on accuracy and precision of home range estimates. We also compared results obtained by weekly aerial radiotracking versus more frequent GPS locations to test for biases in conventional radiotracking data. Home ranges based on the MCP were 20-606 km2 (x = 201) for aerial radiotracking data (n = 12-16 locations/bear) and 116-1,505 km2 (x = 522) for the complete GPS data sets (n = 245-466 locations/bear). Fixed kernel home ranges were 34-955 km2 (x = 224) for radiotracking data and 16-130 km2 (x = 60) for the GPS data. Differences between means for radiotracking and GPS data were due primarily to the larger samples provided by the GPS data. Means did not differ between radiotracking data and equivalent-sized subsets of GPS data (P > 0.10). For the MCP, home range area increased and variability decreased asymptotically with number of locations. For the kernel models, both area and variability decreased with increasing sample size. Simulations suggested that the MCP and kernel models required >60 and >80 locations, respectively, for estimates to be both accurate (change in area <1%/additional location) and precise (CV < 50%). Although the radiotracking data appeared unbiased, except for the relationship between area and sample size, these data failed to indicate some areas that likely were important to bears. Our results suggest that the usefulness of conventional radiotracking data may be limited by potential biases and variability due to small samples. Investigators that use home range estimates in statistical tests should consider the effects of variability of those estimates. Use of GPS-equipped collars can facilitate obtaining larger samples of unbiased data and improve accuracy and precision of home range estimates.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Effects of sample size and sampling frequency on studies of brown bear home ranges and habitat use
Series title Ursus
Volume 11
Year Published 1999
Language English
Publisher International Association for Bear Research and Management
Publisher location New York, NY
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 139
Last page 148
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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