Wide-ranging species such as mammalian carnivores are especially vulnerable to the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation near urban areas. Being strict carnivores and generally maintaining at least some degree of territoriality, felids, such as bobcats and mountain lions, may be particularly vulnerable to these fragmentation effects. Among the felids, bobcats are a very adaptable species, utilizing many different habitats across North America, and taking advantage of a wide variety of prey species, from birds, reptiles, and small mammals to lagomorphs and even ungulates.
The NPS has been studying the behavior and ecology of bobcats since 1996 at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Much of this region’s natural habitat has already been eliminated and remaining habitat is highly fragmented. Overall, the goal of this study aims to:
- Understand how bobcats are living in, and affected by, the highly fragmented urban landscape by monitoring bobcat movements, habitat use, and behavior. Data will identify conservation actions and recommendations that reduce the potential for human-wildlife conflicts.
- Determine how much open space remains, connectivity among open spaces, and their capacity to support bobcats.
- Identify dispersal barriers and corridors. Assess corridor quality and identify need for corridor protection, restoration, and/or acquisition.
- Evaluate survivorship and behavior of kittens to further understand reproduction and viability of bobcats.
- Study anticoagulant poisons as a significant mortality source for bobcats in the urban-wildland interface.
Long-term bobcat monitoring has already produced interesting and important results and has led to significant conservation actions. For example, data from this study have been widely cited in efforts to reduce use of anticoagulant rodenticides, potentially reducing secondary impacts on a variety of non-target animals. Data have also contributed to collaborative efforts with the California Department of Transportation and other agencies to reduce roadway impacts on wildlife, including the provision of wildlife crossing structures along freeways.