The large area requirements and trophic level position of large mammalian carnivores allow them to serve as indicators of community health and function as umbrella species for the habitat they occupy. The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a resilient species that is able to adapt to a variety of ecosystems. My first objective was to determine the influence of environmental conditions, habitat, and coyotes (Canis latrans) on bobcat population density. I examined bobcat populations over time using remote cameras and spatially explicit capture-recapture methods at 3 study sites in South Texas, a highly dynamic ecoregion. Bobcat densities were similar over time at each study site but varied somewhat among the study sites. The differences in environmental productivity, habitat, and coyote occupancy rates may each partially explain the variation in bobcat density among the sites. Second, I examined the influence of woody micro-scale habitat structure and commercial trapping lure on the encounter rate of bobcats at 3 study sites in South Texas. I found a positive association between bobcat encounter rate and 3 habitat variables: screening cover 0.5–1 m, canopy cover >1 m high, and opening width. Lure and study site were not important variables in the final model. However, lure did elicit a behavioral response for some individuals, which aided in their identification. My study was unique in that it examined the simultaneous effects of lure and micro-scale habitat variables on bobcat travel routes. This information can be used to increase detection of bobcats and improve the precision and reliability of population estimates. These structural habitat variables may also be used to identify travel corridors for bobcats and other wildlife that share similar habitat.
June 30, 2015
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