The Effects of Urban Development Bobcat Ecology, Behavior, and Movement Patterns

Lead Biologists: Dr. Seth Riley [Seth_Riley (at )NPS.gov] and Joanne Moriarty, M.S., R.V.T. [Joanne_Moriarty (at) NPS.gov]
Lead Agency: National Park Service
Project Duration: 1996-ongoing
Collaborating Agencies: University of California, Davis; Colorado State University; UCLA

Project Overview and Goals:   This project is the longest running and one of the only projects on  urban bobcat populations.  The project involves the capture,  radio-collaring/ear-tagging, and sample collection from bobcats  primarily in the Thousand Oaks, Westlake, and Agoura Hills region in  Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.  Approximately 200 bobcats have been  sampled since 1996, creating a unique dataset and sample collection  spanning more than a decade for an elusive species of wild cat.  Goals  of the research initially focused on understanding how the ecology of  this wild cat was affected by urban development.  Blood and tissue  samples collected during captures now contribute to the graduate student  research on disease susceptibility project.  Since 1996,  the project has taken on new goals, but a rough outline of project  goals include (to name just a few):
1)  How are movement patterns of bobcats affected by urban development and roads?
2)   What constitutes a barrier (ie., freeways?) and what constitutes a  corridor (ie., underpasses?) for movement for these wild cats?
3)  What is the survival rate for these animals and what are the sources of mortality for them?
4)  Do roads and fragmentation lead to reduced gene flow between populations?
5)  To what diseases are these bobcats exposed?
6)  Are the bobcats reproducing?


The Effects of Urban Development on Disease Susceptibility on Bobcats in an Urban Fragmented Landscape

Lead Biologist: Laurel Klein Serieys, Ph.D. Candidate [Laurelserieys (at) gmail.com]
Lead Agencies and Advisors:  University of California, Los Angeles (Dr. Robert K. Wayne) and National Park Service (Dr. Seth P.D. Riley)
Project Duration: 2006-2013
Funding Source: National Science Foundation, Summerlee Foundation, UCLA, SAMO Fund, Panthera, Santa Monica Audubon Society, Friends of Griffith Park, Private Donations
Collaborating Agencies: University of California, Davis; Colorado State University; United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Project Overview and Goals:  The project is a graduate student (Laurel Klein) research project and a collaboration between UCLA and NPS.  This disseratation project involved two years of intense bobcat trapping, ear-tagging, and sample collection in Topanga State and Malibu Creek State Park areas, Griffith Park, and Hollywood Hills, Beverly Hills and Bel Air areas.  50 bobcats were captured and samples collected for intense laboratory analyses (in progress).  The main objectives of this study are to examine several consequences of urban development, and their potential role in increased disease susceptibility in local bobcat populations, including:

1) The effects of reduced gene flow between populations resulting from urban development and barrier effects created by major freeways.  Reduced gene flow could lead to inbreeding within bobcat populations isolated from one another.  Inbreeding can lead to reduced genetic variation at genes important in immune defense.  This work is being conducted in the Robert Wayne Lab at UCLA.

2)  The effects of exposure to common pesticides, in particular, anticoagulant rat poisons, the number one method of rodent control used worldwide.  Although we have yet to identify a mechanism by which exposure to anticoagulants can reduce immune function in bobcats, we are documenting widespread exposure of bobcats and other carnivore species in the study area.  Beyond causing direct mortalities in individuals, these poisons could have yet unknown effects when exposure occurs at low doses chronically throughout an animal's life.  We seek to understand better the effects of chronic, sublethal anticoagulant rat poison exposure on bobcats.  Collaborators for this research include Dr. Robert Poppenga at California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory (UC Davis) and Dr. Christel Uittenbogaart at UCLA.

3)  The effects of spillover of disease from domestic to wild animal populations.  Specifically, we are measuring exposure to common feline (cat) diseases in bobcats and whether disease exposure varies according to the degree of urban association within individuals.  Collaborators for this research include Drs. Sue VandeWoude and Kevin Crooks at Colorado State University.


Bobcat Ecology in the Most Protected Region of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area: A Comparative Population for Ongoing Urban Bobcat Ecology Research

Lead Biologist: Joanne Moriarty, M.S., R.V.T. [Jonne_Moriarty (at) NPS.gov]

Project Duration: 2008-2011
Lead Agency: National Park Service
Collaborating Agencies: University of California, Davis; Colorado State University; UCLA
Project Overview and Goals:  This project was began in an effort to understand how bobcat ecology may differ between urban populations (see project description above) relative to the least urban influenced bobcat populations in the Santa Monica Mountains.  The region most projected and most continuous (ie., least fragmented by urban development and roads) is Point Mugu State Park.  This State Park represents the best region to understand our local bobcats's population dynamics and ecology if urban development was not present around Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.  This project has involved the capture, radio-collaring/ear-tagging, and sample collection from around 20 bobcats and data is presently being analyzed for a preliminary comparison of urban vs. core (ie., natural, continous) habitat bobcat ecology.  Blood and tissue samples collected during captures contribute to the graduate student research on disease susceptibility project.   A few questions we hope to address using the comparative urban bobcat data set described in the 'Urban Bobcat Study' include:
1)  Are movement patterns for urban bobcats different than bobcats in Point Mugu State Park?  Patterns of interest include when they are most active (day vs. night), distances they travel, whether Pt. Mugu bobcats stay only in the State Park or venture into nearby urban regions, home range size, and home range overlap between both same and opposite sexes.  
2)  What is the survival rate for these animals and what are the sources of mortality for them?
4)  To what diseases are these bobcats exposed?

6)  Are these bobcats reproducing and how do litter sizes and health compare to those of urban bobcats?

 


The Effects of the 118-Freeway on Bobcat Movement Patterns in the Moorpark Area

Lead Biologist: Justin Brown, M.S. [Justin_L_Brown (at) NPS.gov]
Project Duration: 2010-2011
Lead Agency: National Park Service
Collaborating Agencies: University of California, Davis; Colorado State University; UCLA
Funding Source: CalTrans

Project Overview and Goals:  This project is funded by CalTrans in an effort to learn how the 118-Freeway affects bobcat movement patterns and mortality prior to freeway expansion and remediation efforts.  Additionally, to aid in future remediation efforts, CalTrans has sponsored this project in order to learn where bobcats are crossing the 118-Freeway to learn where movement corridors will best be placed.  Accordingly, a principle objective is to capture and radio-collar bobcats with radio-collars equipped with GPS-technology to document detailed movement patterns.  Remote cameras have also been placed near what we biologists expect might constitute natural freeway crossing points (ie., creek bed undercrossings) as an additional measure of bobcat population size estimates and movements across the 118-freeway.  Approximately 10 bobcats are being radio-collared and tracked as part of this research.  Blood and tissue samples collected during captures contribute to the graduate student research on disease susceptibility described in the UCLA bobcat disease susceptibility study project.