Skip to main content
Spatial capture–recapture models allowing Markovian transience or dispersal
Population Ecology (2016)
  • J. Royle
  • Angela Fuller
  • Chris Sutherland, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Spatial capture–recapture (SCR) models are a
relatively recent development in quantitative ecology, and
they are becoming widely used to model density in studies
of animal populations using camera traps, DNA sampling
and other methods which produce spatially explicit individual
encounter information. One of the core assumptions
of SCR models is that individuals possess home ranges that
are spatially stationary during the sampling period. For
many species, this assumption is unlikely to be met and,
even for species that are typically territorial, individuals
may disperse or exhibit transience at some life stages. In
this paper we first conduct a simulation study to evaluate
the robustness of estimators of density under ordinary SCR
models when dispersal or transience is present in the
population. Then, using both simulated and real data, we
demonstrate that such models can easily be described in the
BUGS language providing a practical framework for their
analysis, which allows us to evaluate movement dynamics
of species using capture–recapture data. We find that while
estimators of density are extremely robust, even to pathological
levels of movement (e.g., complete transience), the
estimator of the spatial scale parameter of the encounter
probability model is confounded with the dispersal/transience
scale parameter. Thus, use of ordinary SCR models
to make inferences about density is feasible, but interpretation
of SCR model parameters in relation to movement
should be avoided. Instead, when movement dynamics are
of interest, such dynamics should be parameterized
explicitly in the model.
  • Animal movement,
  • Density estimation,
  • Dispersal,
  • Spatial capture–recapture,
  • Spatially explicit capture–recapture,
  • Transience
Publication Date
Winter January, 2016
Citation Information
J. Royle, Angela Fuller and Chris Sutherland. "Spatial capture–recapture models allowing Markovian transience or dispersal" Population Ecology Vol. 58 Iss. 1 (2016) p. 53 - 62
Available at: