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1 August 2012 What is a home range?
Roger A. Powell, Michael S. Mitchell
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“Home range” is a standard concept in animal ecology and behavior but few people try to understand what home ranges mean to the animals that have them and often assume that a home-range estimate, quantified using some method, is the home range. This leads to 2 problems. First, researchers put much energy into discerning and using the “best” methods for estimating home ranges while no one understands, really, what a home range is. Second, maps delineating home-range estimates may have little connection with what home ranges are and what they mean to the animals that have them. To gain insight into these problems, Roger Powell (hereafter, Roger) documented his own use of space for 65 days, obtaining complete data on where he went, what he did, and how much energy and money he expended and gained in each place. Roger's use of space is consistent with how other mammals use space and, therefore, examination of his data provides insight into what a home range is and how ecologists should approach quantifying other animals' home ranges. We present estimates of Roger's home range in 5 different metrics, or currencies, that provide important and different insights. Home-range estimators that combine different types of information to estimate the spatial distribution and qualities of resources that structure animal behavior (i.e., fitness surfaces) will probably provide the most insight into animals' home ranges. To make reasonable estimates of home ranges, researchers must collect data on habitat, resources, and other attributes of the landscape, so that they can understand basic behaviors of animals and understand how animals may view their environment. We propose that the best concept of a home range is that part of an animal's cognitive map of its environment that it chooses to keep updated.

Roger A. Powell and Michael S. Mitchell "What is a home range?," Journal of Mammalogy 93(4), 948-958, (1 August 2012).
Published: 1 August 2012

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