Urban Bobcats – Part III

This is Part 3 of an ongoing series about bobcat research in Southern California.  If you haven’t already, please read Part 1 and Part 2.

Determining where to place the traps is one of the most interesting parts of this project.  It helps to know a bit about bobcat behavior, and what draws their attention.  In many ways, they aren’t too different than we are.  They prefer to follow existing trails and are very visual creatures.  The latter part may be surprising since they do so much of their hunting after dark.  They react strongly to movement and also have excellent hearing.  The best locations are near trail intersections or between a source of water and hunting grounds.

It also helps to be good at finding telltale signs of bobcat activity, aka spoor.  There is little point in setting a trap where there are no signs of bobcat activity.   Until you start looking for tracks and scat, they are really easy to miss, but with practice they become much more obvious.  I have spent the past two years familiarizing myself with bobcat tracks and scat, and have gotten reasonably good at spotting signs of their activity.  However, Laurel’s ability to detect their presence is far more impressive.  I remember stopping at a hillside and having her exclaim that it reeked of bobcat urine.  I couldn’t smell a thing until I knelt down and really sniffed around.  Surprisingly… it doesn’t smell nearly as bad as house-cat urine.

We spend the middle of the day exploring a new location and found some signs of activity.  There was a really nice animal trail intersection near an oak tree, and it was decided that this would be the best place to put the trap.  Here’s what the location looked like before we got to work camouflaging the cage.  (If I remember correctly, she ended up catching a coyote here a few days later.)

Looking at the above photo, it would be hard to imagine that a bobcat would dumb enough to venture inside something so obviously unnatural.  However, it’s amazing what some careful arrangement of natural vegetation can accomplish.  Here’s what the trap looked like once we were done.

Once the trap was disguised, Laurel attached the radio transmitter, made sure it sent the right signal when the door was triggered, marked down the GPS coordinates and then setup a bunch of visual lures.  Interestingly, hanging old CD’s from branches and spreading feathers from a down-pillow are effective ways to get a bobcat’s attention.

Once this trap was set, we packed up and went back to the site of the bobcat sighting for a quick lunch.  There was no sign of it, although I did take the opportunity to find the place that she marked and work on training my nose.  Laurel decided that she couldn’t pass up the opportunity that this bobcat presented, so we set a trap at this location.  After that, we made the rounds again and checked on all of the traps.  No bobcats were trapped, but it was still a fantastic day.

I’m very excited about the next post.  About a week later, Laurel called bright-and-early to let me know that they had a bobcat.  I immediately grabbed my camera gear and jumped in the car.  More to come tomorrow…

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3 Responses to Urban Bobcats – Part III

  1. Greg Lawler says:

    Awesome series Barry, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s post 🙂

    Greg

  2. John Wall says:

    Great stuff, Barry. Looking forward to the next post!

  3. […] a series about a bobcat research project in Southern California.  Please read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you haven’t […]

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