Bobcats may be at the top of the food chain, but they still face threats to their survival. In urban and suburban areas, these big cats are dying at alarmingly high rates, which could lead to local extinction. Habitat loss and human development separates bobcat populations from each other and limits their movements across the landscape. Some of this could be mitigated, however, by wildlife corridors.
A recent study published in Biological Conservation found that corridors with native vegetation help bobcats move between remaining habitat patches in the San Francisco Bay Area. To see where bobcats travel and spend time, the researchers outfitted 38 bobcats with GPS collars to record their locations.
Using these coordinates and satellite maps, the researchers saw that bobcats traveled through areas with more plants and avoided areas with conventional agricultural and high-density housing. Yet, they wondered, would protecting these bobcat highways be enough to protect the species?
The research team also performed necropsies, autopsies for animals, on dead bobcats in the area. They found that road crossings, particularly those with high medians that the animals couldn’t easily cross, were dangerous for bobcats. More insidiously, rat poisons were a major killer of bobcats despite being highly regulated in California.
Thanks to their data, the research team was able to identify specific areas for permanent bobcat habitat protection in the Bay Area. The study, however, cautions that corridors alone cannot sustain bobcat populations: additional action must be taken to reduce car collisions and poisoning before it’s too late.