Karen Ickes

Bobcat Population Size in Central Michigan

The ability to identify individuals of several wild felid species by pelt characteristics has been verified through various studies. Researchers in Texas examined images from remotely triggered automatic cameras and confirmed that individual bobcats could be identified. Given adequate numbers of images, traditional capture-recapture based population estimates could also be calculated. This technique allows the calculation of population estimates in situations where physical capture and marking are undesirable.  We examined whether this same technique could be used in an area with lower bobcat density and differing coat patterns than similar studies in the past. The study area was in northern Kent and Montcalm counties. We evaluated bobcat habitat suitability using GIS, sign at track stations and visits to potential camera sites. Cameras were only placed in locations deemed to contain suitable habitat. Visual and olfactory lures were placed to attract cats into range of the cameras. To date inadequate numbers of bobcats images have been collected to develop a population estimate. Images are still being collected and refinements to camera placement are being developed. We are also increasing effort on publicly owned land which typically contains higher quality habitat but also presents a greater risk of theft of cameras. Experience during the summer has led to increased confidence in our ability to place cameras on public land without losing them to theft. Collection efforts will continue through the fall in an attempt to increase our sample size and more fully evaluate the effectiveness of this technique in Central Michigan.

Faculty Mentor: Paul Keenlance, Natural Resource Management

Page last modified July 29, 2009