Newswise — MACOMB, IL – A $100,000 state grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will provide research opportunities for faculty and students at Western Illinois University to study the bobcat population in west central Illinois.
WIU Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Chris Jacques applied for the grant, which funds the second phase of his research through June 2019. Jacques said the first phase of focused on evaluating home range use and abundance estimation using camera traps, and was completed in June 2017.
"Opportunities this project will continue to provide to WIU students to participate directly in field work are available and will continue through June 2019," said Jacques. "To date, we have involved dozens of students in the first phase (2015-2017) of the project."
The WIU study uses remote cameras to count bobcats. Jacques said the use of the cameras is relatively new technology, but is increasingly used by wildlife managers across the country.
"Use of remote cameras is less invasive, intensive and costly than other long-term census techniques, and especially useful to record nocturnal species that occur in landscapes that are difficult to access by humans," said Jacques.
"Preliminary camera survey results suggested winter trapping surveys were more effective at detecting bobcats than spring/summer trapping surveys," he said. "Accordingly, our proposed camera survey methods will be limited to the winter season and within known bobcat core areas to increase capture/recapture rates for subsequent abundance estimation."
The second phase of the study will focus on evaluating annual and seasonal survival of bobcats and the continued development of survey protocols to aid in abundance estimation.
He added that west central Illinois provides a unique setting to study the survival of bobcats in rural areas. The first phase of Jacques' research provided data on bobcat locations, using VHF collars, and showed that continued monitoring is needed to better assess survival and cause-specific mortality rates across agriculturally-dominated landscapes.
Bobcats will be captured in McDonough, Schuyler, Fulton and Hancock counties through during winter 2018 and 2019 and fitted with GPS radio collars, which will allow for more precise monitoring of movement and survival. The research also includes using 220 infrared-triggered remote cameras in the winter months, during which time cameras are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, over 60-day intervals to photo capture and recapture bobcats.
The study will be completed by staff from WIU's Department of Biological Sciences, working with the IDNR Division of Wildlife Resources Frurbearer program staff. Funding is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration, administered by the `IDNR, Furbearers Unlimited, the Illinois Bobcat Foundation and Illinois Humane.
The grant helps provide a full-time graduate research assistant, as well as materials, supplies and travel expenses to visit the camera and trapping sites.
For more information on the study, or to get involved, contact Jacques at [email protected] or graduate student Ed Davis at [email protected].