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1 December 2006 Balancing Number of Locations with Number of Individuals in Telemetry Studies
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The study of habitat selection usually compares assessments of habitat use to habitat availability. To investigate habitat selection of large mammals today, researchers must choose between a few very expensive Global Positioning System (GPS) telemetry collars that can provide many locations and several inexpensive very high frequency telemetry collars that will provide few numbers of locations (unless substantial resources are spent in the field). We investigated the effects of number of locations and sampled animals on the outcome of habitat-selection analyses. We evaluated whether tracking frequency and sample size of individuals influenced our ability to detect habitat selection. We used data obtained from adult female moose fitted with GPS collars to generate data sets simulating various sampling frequencies and sample sizes of individuals. Tracking schedules conformed to those commonly used in ungulate telemetry studies (1 location every 14, 7, or 3 d and 1 or 3 locations per d) as did animal sample sizes (between 8 and 20 individuals). We determined habitat use and availability at the landscape and home-range scales during summer–autumn and winter. Precision of habitat use and availability estimates did not improve markedly with increasing tracking frequency. Only results obtained with the least-intensive tracking schedule (1 location every 14 d) differed from those obtained with the other schedules and only in 25% of the cases. Above this threshold in tracking frequency, number of sampled animals was clearly more important than number of locations in detection of habitat selection. Our results indicated that habitat-selection analyses were more sensitive to inter- than intra-individual variability. Depending on study objectives, it may be more profitable to prioritize number of sampled individuals rather than number of locations per individual. We suggest methods allowing researchers to assess inter-individual variability while studying habitat selection.

IRÈNE GIRARD, CHRISTIAN DUSSAULT, JEAN-PIERRE OUELLET, RÉHAUME COURTOIS, and ALAIN CARON "Balancing Number of Locations with Number of Individuals in Telemetry Studies," Journal of Wildlife Management 70(5), 1249-1256, (1 December 2006).[1249:BNOLWN]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 December 2006

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