DALLAS - Researchers, wildlife managers and local government officials from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Utah State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Service-National Wildlife Research Center, and Welder Wildlife Foundation have begun a study on the ecology of bobcats in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The purpose of the study is to better understand how bobcats live with humans in highly urbanized landscapes.
"Bobcats have learned to thrive in urban areas and will always be a part of our urban wildlife community," said Derek Broman, TPWD urban wildlife biologist in Dallas. "The goal of this research effort is to answer important questions about urban wildlife to help DFW area cities and counties improve communication to their residents about how wildlife and people can co-exist."
Bobcats are the most common wildcat in North America. Not to be confused with the much larger mountain lion, bobcats typically weigh between 11 and 30 pounds and have a short tail, long legs, and large feet. Though reclusive and mostly active at night, bobcats frequently leave cover to hunt before sundown and can be seen in a variety of habitats throughout Texas. In recent years, bobcat sightings have increased within the Metroplex.
The study area includes approximately 49,000 acres bordered by SH 183 to the north, SH 161 to the east, SH 180 to the south and Interstate 820 to the west. The area includes parts of Fort Worth, Hurst, and Arlington. Ten to 15 bobcats will be captured and fitted with global positioning system (GPS) collars so researchers can follow their movements and activities for one year.
Four bobcats—an adult female, an adult male, an adolescent male and an adolescent female—have been fitted with GPS collars so far. The female has since been seen with two kittens that are approximately seven months old. Before being released, each bobcat is photographed and tagged to provide a catalog of images for future identification. Blood, hair, scat, and parasite samples are collected from the animals for analysis on genetics, diet, and pathogens.
In addition to learning more about the life of bobcats in urban areas, researchers will also work with Texas Master Naturalist chapters to investigate the role that citizen science groups can play in complementing, supplementing or replacing field-based scientific investigations.
Master Naturalists members will be trained in the identification and documentation of bobcat sign. Location data on bobcat sightings from Master Naturalists and other public resources, such as iNaturalist.org and the DFW Wildlife Hotline, will be compared to the GPS collar data to identify correlations and determine whether public participation through citizen science programs can provide a long-term, cost-effective method for urban bobcat monitoring in the Metroplex.
The Texas Master Naturalist volunteer program is coordinated by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and TPWD, with support from a variety of local organizations. Volunteers receive 40 hours of in-depth training in wildlife and natural resource management customized to focus on local ecosystems. In return, volunteers provide at least 40 hours of service in the form of community education and demonstration projects, while pursuing a minimum of 8 hours of advanced training in areas of special interest. For more information, visit http://txmn.org
The mission of the USDA-Wildlife Services-National Wildlife Research Center is to provide federal leadership and expertise in facilitating coexistence of people and wildlife. The program's efforts help people resolve wildlife damage to a wide variety of resources as well as reducing threats to human health and safety. Funding for the WS Program is a combination of federal appropriations and cooperator-provided funds. To learn more about Wildlife Services and its research arm, the National Wildlife Research Center, visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/nwrc/.