Yesterday I had my day planned out- but should have known better. I had two important tasks to accomplish:
1. Download data from B290's radio-collar
2. Go to National Park Service office and compile the capture location data for all 291 bobcats that have been captured in the park since 1996.
And I should have known better than to think my day would go as planned! The National Park Service has bobcat traps open until February 15, the end of this year's bobcat trapping season. The equipment I was using to download B290's collar information is the same equipment the National Park Service uses to program the radiocollars before putting them on a newly captured animal. So, the equipment was on very short-term loan to me and in the case that a capture occured, I would have to drop everything I was doing to bring the equipment to the bobcat capture.
Of course, NPS caught a cat. And I predicted it! With the winds and cool weather blowing in the night before, I had a feeling that a capture would occur. Knowing that my day would likely involve a bobcat capture, I got up early before the bobcat traps were being checked so I could try to get the download completed before traps were finished being checked. However, to download the data from B290's collar, I have to be relatively close to the animal. I had to locate him using the radio-signal being emmitted from his collar and get close enough to him for the computer to connect with his collar. He proved difficult to locate unfortunately. Just as I was trying to download the data (unsuccesfully), I got a call that NPS had a bobcat capture. So, all hope of getting data from B290 yesterday was abandoned. Instead, I drove to the capture location in Thousand Oaks.
I can't complain, however, that I was on to a new task. I, of course, enjoy handling bobcats and getting to see new ones. This new bobcat would be number B292, and she turned out to be a young cat - a kitten of the year. Most of the kittens this year were born in Feburary, so that put her at about 10 months old. She looked very healthy and the capture process went very smoothly. She was too young to put a GPS collar on, because they weigh too much for young bobcats. So, she got the standard VHF-radiocollar that only emits a radio-signal. To get locations, NPS biologists will have to manually triangulate locations. These data are generally not as accurate as GPS data and definitely not as detailed, but they are better than nothing! Hopefully, once she is older, NPS biologists will have luck recapturing her and putting the better radiocollar on her. In the meantime, they will still learn a lot about her movement patterns, her homerange size, what adult territory she may establish (she is still staying close to her mom at this age), and if something happens to her, we will learn her fate.
And in case you were wondering if I at least accomplished one of my necessary tasks for the day- the answer is Yes! After the bobcat capture, I was still able to get to the National Park Service office in Thousand Oaks to get the location data I needed for all 292 bobcats captured since 1996. I will now use these data to understand how the genetics of the bobcat populations, disease prevalence/exposure, and rat poison exposure vary across the landscape. Combining these data sets is one important step I'm taking to understand the biology of the bobcats on a detailed landscape level, and also advance towards completing my Ph.D.!