Friday, May 6, 2011

Bobcat Population in the South Coast Wilderness

Bobcats at play in backyard in Aliso Viejo. Photo: OC Register.

The Laguna Canyon Foundation's May Newsletter had as their animal highlight the Bobcats of the South Coast Wilderness. The Laguna Foundation's Newsletter provided the video below from the South Coast Wilderness. Thanks to LCF and IRC Volunteer Kevin Herbinson,who has been maintaining a series of motion activated cameras within the park, these images and videos of a bobcat are available for all to enjoy. It is estimated that between 30 and 50 bobcats roam the San Juaquin Hills. Bobcats can live more than ten years eating small mammals (mainly rabbits). Sadly, each year in the South Coast Wilderness, numerous bobcats are killed in vehicular accidents, poisonings and from habitat fragmentation. Here is a link to an article on suburban sightings of Bobcats in Orange County that was provided by the May newsletter. The below quoted except was taken from the Soka University Newsletter which can be found Here.


How big is a bobcat anyway?  According to USGS Ecologist Lisa Lyren, they can appear much bigger than they really are.  “It is very difficult to judge a bobcat’s weight, especially from a distance.  Bobcats are taller and leaner than a house cat, and they have an unusual ability to appear bigger than they really are.  The biggest we ever captured in this area is 22lbs (10kg), with females averaging 13 lbs (6kg).” When the Soka campus was being graded, I told Lyren about a bobcat I saw that the Ranger called “Big Foot,” “It had beautiful striped front legs, was as big as a large dog, and must have weighed over 40 lbs (18kg).”  Lyren demurred and added that most bobcat sightings claim the cat weighs 35-65 lbs (30kg).   So I guess I’ve been telling a tall tale!   Lyren should know; she and her colleagues have been tagging and studying bobcats for about 8 years in Orange County, which includes the park area around Soka.  
How many bobcats are in the park near Soka?    Lyren reluctantly estimated about 50 because their population is plastic and always adjusting to the environment.  Bobcats live 7-10 years on average in the wild.  They are carnivores, with rabbits making up 60% of their diet, which also includes ground squirrels, small mammals, and sometimes birds.  Bobcats are a perimeter hunter and need bushes to lie in wait.   Bobcats, adults and kittens, suffer from predation from coyotes.   With loss of habitat, bobcat and coyote encounters increase and may explain why more females are having their kittens in urban backyards.  With Soka’s proximity to the park, the open landscaping and ample rabbits, Lyren offered this would be an ideal habitat for bobcats and that we shouldn’t be surprised to see kittens born on campus.  Bobcats are a good indicator of a healthy natural environment.
What are the biggest threats to bobcats?  Human activities are, including habitat loss and fragmentation, vehicle death, and poisoning.   Around Soka, one of their biggest hazards is becoming road-kill on Wood Canyon and Alicia Parkway while trying to cross the roads to enter adjacent habitat.  Any densely bushed area, such as the housing across from Soka, will attract them, and they use the neighborhoods as movement corridors.  Bobcats are also victims of poisoning from rodenticide (anti-coagulants) put out to poison small mammals.  The bobcats and other predators then eat the poisoned mammals, which can either kill them outright or make them susceptible to mange.  Mange literally wiped out a healthy bobcat population in the Santa Monica Mountains (where Soka used to be located).  
Do we have mountain lions around Soka?  Lyren says it is very unlikely, due to a lack of a corridor from the Santa Ana Mountains.   Any sighting like this should be confirmed by a trained biologist, who would review pictures, description, prints, scat, hair, or prey.   Bobcats are commonly confused with mountain lions.  The key differences are size (10x), tail (very long vs short), and coloring (uniform vs spots & stripes). 
Where can I see a bobcat and a mountain lion?   At the Irvine Regional Park Zoo, 15 miles from Soka, you can see for yourself the size and difference between bobcats and mountain lions.  
We can help the scientists studying bobcats by reporting sick, injured, or dead bobcats to Campus Security, who will then report this to Animal 

5 comments:

  1. Excellent post on Bobcats! Loving your blog as well. My sister and I have recently taken up hiking through our hometown of Simi Valley and would love to have you as a follower of our blog.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post! We live near the Santa Rosa Plateau at the Southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains, so are fortunate enough to have bobcats coming through our property once in awhile (we certainly have enough rabbits around to keep them well fed). There have even been a couple mountain lion sightings in our neighborhood in the past 5 years, which we were really thrilled about - nothing to fear, so long as know the fact from fiction about their general behavior. The Nature Conservancy raises funds through their spring and fall native plant sales at the Santa Rosa Plateau visitor center for U.C. Davis' mountain lion collaring project, which tracks the movement of these cats through the Santa Ana's.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very informative, thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I just returned from a 6 pm walk on Sprucewood, 3 blocks from the entrance to the Aliso & Wood Canyons park. I saw what looked like a very large cat ~25 lbs, sitting right in the middle of the street. I got about 10 feet from it, it got up, and slowly pranced away, on the street, with huge paws, short thick tail, and tufted ears. This beautiful bobcat had no fear, and eventually walked up the embankment, in shrubbery, looking like he might be hunting a rabbit... further incentive to keep my siamese cat inside...

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just got video, very close and pictures of the bigfoot bobcat. And you are correct, it is the size of a lab, well over 30 lbs.
    Morning sighting, it was stalking quail. I'll send you a picture if i can.

    ReplyDelete

Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.