Date of Completion
Tracy A. G. Rittenhouse, Chadwick D. Rittenhouse, Melissa A. McKinney
Field of Study
Master of Science
Understanding a species’ ability to adapt and persist in a human-dominated landscape is important as urban development continues to spread, resulting in wildlife living in close proximity to people. Mesocarnivores are using urban landscapes, yet differences in habitat selection across a species’ range and among urban areas are beginning to emerge. Bobcats are a strict mesocarnivore species that is considered sensitive to fragmentation and intolerant of human activity yet is now living within densely populated areas in some regions. An important first step in understanding bobcat habitat use throughout a range of housing densities is understanding how the effectiveness of monitoring techniques changes from wildlands to urban landscapes. In addition, understanding how to classify and quantify anthropogenic disturbances in relation to how bobcats perceive them across a landscape will allow for a more complete understanding of bobcats within urban landscapes. Lastly, as bobcats occupy developed areas understanding mechanisms, such as how bobcat diet shifts when prey availability and diversity shifts, that allow for persistence within development are important for identifying effective management actions. Through the use of lured cameras, I demonstrated that monitoring techniques’ effectiveness changed across building density as effectiveness of lure type was enhanced in higher building densities. I found that bobcats occupied the full range of housing density from rural to highly suburban landscapes, yet I was able to determine that bobcats did not occupy neighborhoods above 1,000 buildings per km2. Using stable isotopes from hair samples, I found that bobcat diet consisted primarily of natural prey species in natural habitats, throughout backyards, and in developed landscapes; that is, bobcats did not incorporate anthropogenic food sources, such as pets and livestock, into their diet. Overall, I found that bobcats, a top predator in New England, are thriving in this landscape that is forest intermixed with development. From a management perspective, risks bobcats are exposed to in other regions of the US (e.g., exposure to rodenticides as a result of shifting to rodent prey in urban areas) was not evident in my study. In this region, I found that maintaining a minimum level of core natural habitat within every 1 km2 grid cell of the landscape resulted in a mosaic of natural and anthropogenic landcover that bobcats currently occupy. Increased collaboration between wildlife managers and urban planners is needed to design landscapes that continue to allow for the co-existence of both people and wildlife into the future.
Beattie, Kristen, "Bobcats Within a Mosaic of Housing Densities in Connecticut" (2020). Master's Theses. 1465.
Tracy A. G. Rittenhouse