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Keywords:

  • bobcat;
  • bowhunter survey;
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS);
  • habitat model;
  • Iowa;
  • Lynx rufus;
  • relative abundance

Abstract

We combined observations of bobcats (Lynx rufus) from bowhunters with remotely-sensed data to build models that describe habitat and relative abundance of this species in the agricultural landscape of Iowa, USA. We calculated landscape composition and configuration from publicly available land cover, census, road, hydrologic, and elevation data. We used multiple regression models to examine county-level associations between several explanatory variables and relative abundance of bobcats reported by surveyed bowhunters in each county. The most influential explanatory variables in the models were metrics associated with the presence of grassland, including Conservation Reserve, along with configuration of this perennial habitat with forests, although human population density and abundance of eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus) also correlated with abundance of bobcats. Validation of predictions against 3 years of independent data provided confidence in the models, with 66% of predictions within 1 bobcat/1,000 hunter-hours and 95% within 5 bobcats/1,000 hunter-hours of observed values. Once we accounted for landscape differences, no residual spatial trend was evident, despite relatively recent bobcat recolonization of Iowa. Models suggested that future range expansion of the bobcat population may be possible in some northern Iowa counties where habitat composition is similar to counties in southern Iowa where bobcats are abundant. Results from the county-level model have been useful to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in evaluating the expansion of this once rare species and for delineating harvest opportunities. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.