Landscape Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 1319–1335 | Cite as

Using step and path selection functions for estimating resistance to movement: pumas as a case study

  • Katherine A. ZellerEmail author
  • Kevin McGarigal
  • Samuel A. Cushman
  • Paul Beier
  • T. Winston Vickers
  • Walter M. Boyce
Research Article



GPS telemetry collars and their ability to acquire accurate and consistently frequent locations have increased the use of step selection functions (SSFs) and path selection functions (PathSFs) for studying animal movement and estimating resistance. However, previously published SSFs and PathSFs often do not accommodate multiple scales or multi-scale modeling.


We present a method that allows multiple scales to be analyzed with SSF and PathSF models. We also explore the sensitivity of model results and resistance surfaces to whether SSFs or PathSFs are used, scale, prediction framework, and GPS collar sampling interval.


We use 5-min GPS collar data from pumas (Puma concolor) in southern California to model SSFs and PathSFs at multiple scales, to predict resistance using two prediction frameworks (paired and unpaired), and to explore potential bias from GPS collar sampling intervals.


Regression coefficients were extremely sensitive to scale and pumas exhibited multiple scales of selection during movement. We found PathSFs produced stronger regression coefficients, larger resistance values, and superior model performance than SSFs. We observed more heterogeneous surfaces when resistance was predicted in a paired framework compared with an unpaired framework. Lastly, we observed bias in habitat use and resistance results when using a GPS collar sampling interval longer than 5 min.


The methods presented provide a novel way to model multi-scale habitat selection and resistance from movement data. Due to the sensitivity of resistance surfaces to method, scale, and GPS schedule, care should be used when modeling corridors for conservation purposes using these methods.


Puma concolor Resistance surface Connectivity Corridors Wildlife Multi-scale habitat modeling 



We thank B. Compton and E. Plunkett, for assistance with computational capacity, D. Dawn, D. Krucki, C. Bell, P. Bryant, D. Stewart, and K. Krause for field assistance. We would also like to thank the following landowners/managers: The Nature Conservancy, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Orange County Parks Department, The New Irvine Ranch Conservancy, Audubon Starr Ranch Reserve, Riverside County Parks Department, and the Cleveland National Forest. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under NSF DGE-0907995, a Kaplan Graduate Award, The Nature Conservancy, Orange County Transportation Corridor Agency, The Nature Reserve of Orange County, and the McBeth Foundation.

Supplementary material

10980_2015_301_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.6 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1610 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine A. Zeller
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kevin McGarigal
    • 1
  • Samuel A. Cushman
    • 3
  • Paul Beier
    • 4
  • T. Winston Vickers
    • 5
  • Walter M. Boyce
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Environmental ConservationUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  2. 2.PantheraNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research StationFlagstaffUSA
  4. 4.School of ForestryNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  5. 5.Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA

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