Research and management viewpoint - Quantifying home-range overlap: The importance of the utilization distribution

John Fieberg, Christopher O. Kochanny

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

621 Scopus citations


The concept of an animal's home range has evolved over time, as have methods for estimating home-range size and shape. Recently, home-range estimation methods have focused on estimating an animal's utilization distribution (UD; i.e., the probability distribution defining the animal's use of space). We illustrate the importance of the utilization distribution in characterizing the degree of overlap between home ranges (e.g., when assessing site fidelity or space-use sharing among individuals). We compare several different statistics for their ability to accurately rank paired examples in terms of their degree of overlap. These examples illustrate limitations of indices commonly used to quantify home-range overlap and suggest that new overlap indices that are a function of the UD are likely to be more informative. We suggest 2 new statistics for measuring home-range overlap: (1) for a measure of space-use sharing, we suggest a generalization of Hurlbert's (1978) E/E uniform statistic, which we term the utilization distribution overlap index (UDOI), and (2) for a general measure of similarity between UD estimates, we suggest Bhattacharyya's affinity (BA; Bhattacharyya 1943). Using a short simulation study, we found that overlap indices can accurately rank pairs of UDs in terms of the extent of overlap, but estimates of overlap indices are likely to be biased. The extent of the bias depended on sample size and the degree of overlap (UDs with a high degree of overlap resulted in statistics that were more biased [low]), suggesting that comparisons across studies may be problematic. We illustrate the use of overlap indices to quantify the degree of similarity among UD estimates obtained using 2 different data collection methods (Global Positioning Systems [GPS] and very high frequency [VHF] radiotelemetry) for an adult female northern white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in north-central Minnesota.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1346-1359
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • Bhattacharyya's affinity
  • Global Positioning System
  • Home range
  • Overlap
  • Static interaction analysis
  • Telemetry
  • Utilization distribution
  • Utilization distribution overlap index
  • Volume of intersection statistic


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