Wildlife researchers often test whether animals use resources disproportionately relative to availability (i.e., selectively). However, the traditional estimate of availability at the landscape scale (resource proportions on the landscape) may be inaccurate and lead to false conclusions. We calculated the chance of falsely finding selection (type I error rate) when the traditional estimate of availability is used. True availability was estimated by Monte Carlo simulations with randomly located home ranges and compared to the traditional estimate to calculate type I error rates. Tests were conducted with α = 0.05 for different home-range sizes (1 to 1,000 km2) and 4 habitat patterns. Landscape proportions did not equal proportions of habitats in random home ranges (traditional estimate ≠ true availability). Type I error rates were ≥ 0.24 and increased with number of animals tested and decreased with home-range size and number of habitats. Therefore, researchers should use randomly located home ranges instead of landscape proportions to estimate availability at the landscape scale. We evaluated a goodness-of-fit test for comparing habitat proportions between randomly located home ranges and observed home ranges. Type I error rates for this method were ≤ 0.08, regardless of number of animals, home-range size, and number of habitats tested. We evaluated this method for 2 species with different home-range sizes and predicted habitat selection patterns: mountain lions (Puma concolor, ≈700 km2, relatively nonselective) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, ≈16 km2, relatively selective). This method yielded results consistent with predictions, whereas the traditional method using landscape proportions to estimate availability did not. Randomly located, simulated home ranges are superior to landscape proportions for estimating availability.
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Vol. 69 • No. 1