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Bobcat researchers ask for help in locating collars

07/19/2007

Here is a chance for the public to help in wildlife conservation.  Wildlife researchers from the Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit are asking for help in locating Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking collars they placed on bobcats in northwestern and central Vermont during the last two years. 

The high-tech collars record the bobcats' positions at different times during the day, information that will help the researchers identify the bobcats' preferred habitats, travel patterns, and home ranges.  The data also will enable the researchers to evaluate the influences of roads and habitat fragmentation on bobcat survival.  

The batteries powering the GPS collars last about four months, but the collars are programmed to release from the bobcats before the batteries go dead and then omit a signal allowing the researchers to find and retrieve the collars.  The GPS data stored on the collar can then be downloaded to a computer and mapped.  

Researchers have been able to find ten of the bobcat collars so far, and they are hoping the public can help them locate and recover more.  People who find a bobcat in Vermont that is wearing a collar, contact your local Vermont State Game Warden through a state police radio dispatcher or by calling ANR'S Fish & Wildlife at 802-241-3700.     

Bobcats are sometimes killed when struck by a motor vehicle, but their collar may be salvageable.  Other collars may have already fallen off but may be found by people walking through the woods.  Any bobcat found dead must, by law, be left where it is.  

"Obtaining data from the collars is critically important to the success of this project," said Kimberly Royar, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's biologist in charge of managing Vermont's bobcat population.  "In 2006, we captured and collared 15 bobcats and have recovered 8 of their collars.  This year, we have put collars on 18 cats.   So far, 2 collars have been recovered and the rest are due to drop off cats in the next several months."   

Although wary, and therefore seldom seen, bobcats are common in Vermont and well distributed throughout the state.  Bobcats prey on a variety of species including small mammals, rabbits, snowshoe hare, turkey, grouse, and white-tailed deer.  Their densities are highest in high quality habitats where food supplies are abundant.

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