Soka University of America
is located in Aliso Viejo, California, adjacent to Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park
in Orange County. It's also on the border of USGS bobcat study sites in the San Joaquin hills, so it's no surprise most people have seen a bobcat on campus.
To educate the student residence community about their sleek, stealthy neighbors, Soka's Robert Lawson interviewed WERC biologist Lisa Lyren
about bobcat behavior and how human activities are impacting the species.
|WERC biologist Lisa Lyren. Image credit: USGS.
Lyren and lead scientist Erin Boydston
at WERC's Santa Monica Mountains Field Station
are collaborating with National Park Service
researchers to study the spread of notoedric mange disease in bobcats from Santa Monica to San Diego -- a trend linked to rodenticide use.
Here's an adapted excerpt of the interview, courtesy of Soka:
How many bobcats are in the park near Soka?
Lyren reluctantly estimated about 50 because their population is plastic and always adjusting to the environment. Bobcats live seven to ten years on average in the wild. They are carnivores, with rabbits making up 60 percent of their diet, which also includes ground squirrels, small mammals, and sometimes birds. Bobcats are a perimeter hunter and need bushes to lie in wait.
Bobcats, adults and kittens, suffer from predation from coyotes. With loss of habitat, bobcat and coyote encounters increase and may explain why more females are having their kittens in urban backyards. With Soka’s proximity to the park
, the open landscaping and ample rabbits, Lyren offered this would be an ideal habitat for bobcats and that we shouldn’t be surprised to see kittens born on campus. Bobcats are a good indicator of a healthy natural environment.
What are the biggest threats to bobcats?
Human activities are, including habitat loss and fragmentation, vehicle death, and poisoning. Around Soka, one of their biggest hazards is becoming roadkill on Wood Canyon and Alicia Parkway while trying to cross the roads to enter adjacent habitat. Any densely bushed area, such as the housing across from Soka, will attract them, and they use the neighborhoods as movement corridors.
Bobcats are also victims of poisoning from rodenticide (anticoagulants) put out to poison small mammals. The bobcats and other predators then eat the poisoned mammals, which can either kill them outright or make them susceptible to mange. Mange literally wiped out a healthy bobcat population in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Do we have mountain lions around Soka?
Lyren says it is very unlikely, due to a lack of a corridor from the Santa Ana Mountains. Any sighting like this should be confirmed by a trained biologist, who would review pictures, description, prints, scat, hair, or prey. Bobcats are commonly confused with mountain lions. The key differences are size (lions are ten times in size), tail (very long versus short), and coloring (uniform versus spots and stripes).
Read the full article at Soka University's website.
-- Ben Young Landis
Top: A mother bobcat with a radio collar travels the Southern California suburban wilderness with her kitten. Preliminary WERC research suggests that adult bobcats help lead kittens through highway underpass crossings, such as the culvert pictured in the background. Image credit: Lisa Lyren/USGS.