Economic models predict behavior of animals based on the presumption that natural selection has shaped behaviors important to an animal's fitness to maximize benefits over costs. Economic analyses have shown that territories of animals are structured by trade-offs between benefits gained from resources and costs of defending them. Intuitively, home ranges should be similarly structured, but trade-offs are difficult to assess because there are no costs of defense, thus economic models of home-range behavior are rare. We present economic models that predict how home ranges can be efficient with respect to spatially distributed resources, discounted for travel costs, under 2 strategies of optimization, resource maximization and area minimization. We show how constraints such as competitors can influence structure of homes ranges through resource depression, ultimately structuring density of animals within a population and their distribution on a landscape. We present simulations based on these models to show how they can be generally predictive of home-range behavior and the mechanisms that structure the spatial distribution of animals. We also show how contiguous home ranges estimated statistically from location data can be misleading for animals that optimize home ranges on landscapes with patchily distributed resources. We conclude with a summary of how we applied our models to nonterritorial black bears (Ursus americanus) living in the mountains of North Carolina, where we found their home ranges were best predicted by an area-minimization strategy constrained by intraspecific competition within a social hierarchy. Economic models can provide strong inference about home-range behavior and the resources that structure home ranges by offering falsifiable, a priori hypotheses that can be tested with field observations.
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Vol. 93 • No. 4