Probabilistic movement model with emigration simulates movements of deer in Nebraska, 1990-2006

Charles J. Frost, Scott E. Hygnstrom, Andrew J. Tyre, Kent M. Eskridge, David M. Baasch, Justin R. Boner, Gregory M. Clements, Jason M. Gilsdorf, Travis C. Kinsell, Kurt C. Vercauteren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Movements of deer can affect population dynamics, spatial redistribution, and transmission and spread of diseases. Our goal was to model the movement of deer in Nebraska in an attempt to predict the potential for spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) into eastern Nebraska. We collared and radio-tracked >600 white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in Nebraska during 1990-2006. We observed large displacements (>10 km) for both species and sexes of deer, including migrations up to 100 km and dispersals up to 50 km. Average distance traveled between successive daily locations was 166 m for male and 173 for female deer in eastern Nebraska, and 427 m for male and 459 for female deer in western Nebraska. Average daily displacement from initial capture point was 10 m for male and 14 m for female deer in eastern Nebraska, and 27 m for male and 28 m for female deer in western Nebraska. We used these data on naturally occurring movements to create and test 6 individual-based models of movement for white-tailed deer and mule deer in Nebraska, including models that incorporated sampling from empirical distributions of movement lengths and turn angles (DIST), correlated random walks (CRW), home point fidelity (FOCUS), shifting home point (SHIFT), probabilistic movement acceptance (MOVE), and probabilistic movement with emigration (MOVEwEMI). We created models in sequence in an attempt to account for the shortcomings of the previous model(s). We used the Kolmogrov-Smirnov goodness-of-fit test to verify improvement of simulated annual displacement distributions to empirical displacement distributions. The best-fit model (D = 0.07 and 0.08 for eastern and western Nebraska, respectively) included a probabilistic movement chance with emigration (MOVEwEMI) and resulted in an optimal daily movement length of 350 m (maximum daily movement length of 2800 m for emigrators) for eastern Nebraska and 370 m (maximum of 2960 m) for western Nebraska. The proportion of deer that moved as emigrators was 0.10 and 0.13 for eastern and western Nebraska, respectively. We propose that the observed spread of CWD may be driven by large movements of a small proportion of deer that help to establish a low prevalence of the disease in areas east of the current endemic area. Our movement models will be used in a larger individual-based simulation of movement, survival, and transmission of CWD to help determine future surveillance and management actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2481-2490
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 10 2009


  • Dispersal
  • Individual-based model
  • Migration
  • Movement
  • Mule deer
  • Nebraska
  • Odocoileus hemionus
  • Odocoileus virginianus
  • White-tailed deer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling


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