Finding a Home: Stopping Theory and Its Application to Home Range Establishment in a Novel Environment

David Saltz, Wayne M. Getz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Familiarity with the landscape increases foraging efficiency and safety. Thus, when animals are confronted with a novel environment, either by natural dispersal or translocation, establishing a home range becomes a priority. While the search for a home range carries a cost of functioning in an unfamiliar environment, ceasing the search carries a cost of missed opportunities. Thus, when to establish a home range is essentially a weighted sum of a two-criteria cost-minimization problem. The process is predominantly heuristic, where the animal must decide how to study the environment and, consequently, when to stop searching and establish a home range in a manner that will reduce the cost and maximize or at least satisfice its fitness. These issues fall within the framework of optimal stopping theory. In this paper we review stopping theory and three stopping rules relevant to home range establishment: the best-of-n rule, the threshold rule, and the comparative Bayes rule. We then describe how these rules can be distinguished from movement data, hypothesize when each rule should be practiced, and speculate what and how environmental factors and animal attributes affect the stopping time. We provide a set of stopping-theory-related predictions that are testable within the context of translocation projects and discuss some management implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number714580
JournalFrontiers in Conservation Science
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • behavioral types
  • dispersal
  • movement ecology
  • search theory
  • stopping rule
  • translocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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