Estimating Bobcat Abundance in East Texas Using Infrared-triggered Cameras

Reliable population estimation techniques for cryptic forest predators generally are lacking. Development of an efficient and reliable technique to estimate predator abundance directly would be a valuable tool for wildlife managers concerned with predator management. We evaluated the potential for camera survey techniques to provide abundance estimates for bobcats (Lynx rufus) in southeastern forest habitats. We also determined our ability to capture other forest carnivores photographically using these techniques. We used TrailMaster 1500 active infrared-triggered cameras to estimate abundance on a 1318-ha private land holding in eastern Texas. Camera stations were located along roads and wildlife travel corridors using a 65-ha block grid overlaying the property. We established 20 camera stations yielding a mean coverage of approximately 1 camera/65.9 ha. All camera stations were baited with bobcat urine and a visual attractant and monitored for 12 weeks. We recorded 15 bobcat photographic events of seven separate individuals that were identified using spot pattern and other distinctive markings. These data were used to derive a population abundance estimate of seven bobcats during the 12-week study period using the computer program CAPTURE. This corresponded to a density of 0.29-0.58 bobcats/km2, which compared favorably with other studies conducted in similar habitats. In addition to providing a monitoring technique for bobcats, photographic survey techniques could be adapted for monitoring other cryptic carnivores.

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