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Capture–Recapture Methods

Ecological Statistics

  1. William R. Gould1,
  2. Kenneth H. Pollock2

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470057339.vac002

Encyclopedia of Environmetrics

Encyclopedia of Environmetrics

How to Cite

Gould, W. R. and Pollock, K. H. 2006. Capture–Recapture Methods. Encyclopedia of Environmetrics. 1.

Author Information

  1. 1

    New Mexico State University, NM, USA

  2. 2

    North Carolina State University, NC, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

This is not the most recent version of the article. View current version (15 JAN 2013)


Capture–recapture methods have a long history of use, but most recently have received greater attention from biologists and statisticians due to their frequent application. The Petersen method, in which a single mark, release and recapture is made, forms the basis for many of the more sophisticated methods that exist today. The basic principle inherent to capture–recapture is that given knowledge of the size of a marked subset of a population, one can estimate demographic information on the larger population of interest. Closed population models do not allow for migration or mortality or natality. Open population models allow for these processes and thus are more intensely parameterized. Capture–recapture models often require specific assumptions that may prove to be invalid. For example, in some models all animals are assumed to have equal capture probabilities on a given capture occasion. Thus, more realistic models with weaker assumptions are being developed by incorporating multiple recapture periods, multiple sources of recoveries, improved sampling designs, and age and spatial structure into the modelling process. In addition, combinations with other survey types and enhanced technology, e.g. radio telemetry, have allowed additional information sources to be included in estimating important demographic parameters.


  • abundance estimation;
  • closed population;
  • Jolley–Seber;
  • model selection;
  • open population;
  • survival