Maximum likelihood inference for the band-read error model for capture-recapture data with misidentification

Wei Zhang, Steven J. Price, Simon J. Bonner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Misidentification of animals is a common problem for many capture-recapture experiments. Considerably misleading inference may be obtained when traditional models are used for capture-recapture data with misidentification. In this paper, we investigate the so-called band-read error model for modeling misidentification, assuming that it is possible to identify one marked individual as another on each capture occasion. Currently, fitting this model relies primarily on a Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo approach, while maximum likelihood is difficult because there is not a computationally efficient likelihood function available. The Bayesian method is exact but requires considerable computation time. We propose an approximate model for modeling misidentification and then develop a fast maximum-likelihood approach for the approximate model using likelihood constructed by the saddlepoint approximation method. We demonstrate the promising performance of our proposed method by simulation and by comparisons with the Bayesian inference under the original model. We apply the method to analyze capture-recapture data from a population of Northern Dusky Salamanders (Desmognathus fuscus) collected in North Carolina, USA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-422
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental and Ecological Statistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Grant Number 43024-2016)

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Band-read error model
  • Capture-recapture
  • Latent multinomial model
  • Misidentification
  • Saddlepoint approximation
  • Salamander

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Environmental Science (all)
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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