Space Use and Habitat Selection by Bobcats in the Fragmented Landscape of South-Central Iowa

Authors


wrclark@iastate.edu

Abstract

Abstract: Historically, bobcats (Lynx rufus) were found throughout the Corn Belt region, but they nearly disappeared from this area due to habitat loss and unregulated harvest that occurred during the century after European settlement. Reports of bobcat occurrences have been increasing in Iowa, USA, and biologists would like to understand the mechanisms enabling bobcats to recolonize this fragmented agricultural landscape. We determined space use and habitat selection of bobcats by radiocollaring 68 bobcats in south-central Iowa during 2003–2006. We triangulated 12,966 locations and recovered an additional 1,399 3-dimensional locations from Global Positioning System collars. We used a fixed kernel estimator to calculate 95% utilization distributions (UDs) for home ranges and 50% UDs for cores. Annual home range area of males (x̄ = 58.6 km2, 95% CI = 49.2–69.9) was nearly 3 times that of females (x̄=19.9 km2, 95% CI = 17.0–23.3). Females used smaller home ranges during April-September when they were suspected to have kittens with them (x̄ = 16.8 km2, 95% CI = 13.7–20.7), as compared to October-March (x̄ = 24.1 km2, 95% CI = 19.0–30.7), whereas home ranges of males did not differ between seasons. Similarly, core area of males (x̄ = 7.7 km2, 95% CI = 6.2–9.6) was larger than that of females (x̄ = 2.3 km2, 95% CI = 1.9–2.7). Females used significantly smaller cores in April-September (x̄ = 1.8 km2, 95% CI = 1.4–2.3) as compared to October-March (x̄ = 2.8 km2, 95% CI = 2.2–3.7), whereas males did not. For both sexes, compositional analysis indicated that forest habitat was ranked higher than all other habitat classes at both the landscape and local scale. Standardized habitat selection ratios illustrate that female and male bobcats selected forest habitat about twice as frequently as any other habitat class, including grassland and Conservation Reserve Program land. Predictive models indicated that home range and core area was smaller in landscapes where perennial forest and grassland habitats were less fragmented. Predictive models indicated home ranges were more irregular in shape in landscapes where row crop patches were less aggregated within home ranges. Our results have practical implications for wildlife managers regarding expected bobcat habitat use and distribution as the species becomes more abundant in the agricultural landscape of the Midwest.

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