Bobcats in Tucson Study Q and A
Q. How long will a bobcat wear the satellite radio-collar?
Answer - We think that collars on males should last for nearly two years while collars on females will last about 18 months. An important part of this study has to do with when and where females have kittens, and if they successfully raise the kittens. This requires more intensive monitoring (more locations) and will use up the collar’s battery more quickly. Each collar will be pre-programmed to come off at a set time, based on the estimate of battery life, and can also be triggered remotely by the biologist to fall off at any time.
Q. How does the radio-collar tell you the location of the bobcat?
Answer - The radio collar is pre-programmed based on the study needs. In this study, we will obtain GPS locations from bobcats 2-4 times daily depending on the time of year and other factors (females about to give birth will be monitored much more intensively than males for example). At a pre-determined time, which changes by one hour each day, the GPS unit on the collar activates and attempts to take a location. If it is successful it stores that location until it has 4-8 locations (again pre-programmed) and then “sends an email” to the biologist with the coordinates of the locations. The biologist can then plot this information on Google Earth or other map programs. Eventually we will use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and statistics to evaluate what type of habitat the bobcat was using when the location was taken (wildlands, altered but open areas such as a park or golf course, or urban settings with varying densities of houses and buildings). We will also compare the bobcat’s location to primary and secondary roads to find out if crossing roads is a deterrent to bobcat movements. Eventually we will use the locations to calculate each bobcat’s home range (where it finds food, shelter, a safe place to raise young, water, and space from other bobcats). The size of a home range gives us an indication of whether the animal is living in high or lower quality habitat.
Q. Why is it important to know where a bobcat gives birth to kittens?
Answer- Just like house cats, and all other types of wild cats, bobcat kittens are born tiny and defenseless. Since the female bobcat raises the kittens without the help of the male (all bobcat females are single moms), she must leave the kittens undefended while she hunts. Thus, a safe place to give birth and raise kittens is paramount for all bobcats, but especially important for bobcats living near people. This is a very important part of this study. By learning what types of habitat and structures females select for kitten rearing, we can make recommendations to protect such areas, and perhaps even create some new denning habitat. Some people are even lucky enough to have females give birth and raise kittens on their roof, under their deck, or in their backyard. Like all mothers with newborns, she needs to not be disturbed during this critical time.
Q. If I see a bobcat wearing a collar what should I do?
Answer - We would like that information. Go to our email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let us know when you saw the bobcat, where you saw it, whether it was alone or with another bobcat, and what it was doing. Also, if you got a picture of the bobcat send it along and your sighting will be added to our Tucson bobcat database.
Q. What should I do if I see a female bobcat with kittens?
Answer- Your observation is extremely important to us since part of our study focuses on where female bobcats give birth and raise their young. Send us an email at (email@example.com) telling us where you saw this bobcat and how many kittens she had. If possible, give an estimate of the size of the kittens (< one quarter the size of the female, half the size of the female, three quarters the size of the female, or the same size as the female). If you have a picture send it along with your email.
Q. If I see a bobcat in my yard what should I do?
Answer- Don’t try to approach the bobcat. Never corner or attempt to closely approach any wild animal. All wild animals will defend themselves if they feel trapped. Even though urban bobcats may come in close proximity to humans or houses, they are wild animals. Don’t put out supplemental food. Keep bobcats wild! Instead of trying to make the bobcat leave or approach it, just watch it, and appreciate seeing a bobcat just being a bobcat. And consider yourself lucky that you have a front row seat to watch such a spectacular example of Arizona’s Watchable Wildlife. We believe Tucson has one of the largest populations of urban bobcats in the world. This is part of what makes our city so unique.
Q. What is one thing I can do TODAY to keep bobcats safe in my community?
Answer - Stop the use of rat and mouse poisons (often called rodenticides) inside and outside in your home and on your property, and spread the word to your friends and neighbors. Bobcat research in California has shown that when rodents eat these poisons, and are then eaten by bobcats and other predators, the poison is passed on to the predator. Even if bobcats don’t die directly from the poison (which causes the animal to bleed to death internally) their immune systems are weakened, and ultimately, they may die from a condition that normally would not be life threatening. In an urban bobcat population studied in southern California, over half of the radio collared bobcats died from mange, brought on by the weakening of their immune systems because of exposure to rodenticides.
Coming Soon! If you still have questions about the study, please view the “Bobcat Slide Shows” Power Point which can be found under “Bobcat & Study Resources” dropdown menu on the home page of this website.