Bobcats (Lynx rufus) as a Model Organism to Investigate the Effects of Roads on Wide-Ranging Carnivores


We are using bobcats (Lynx rufus) as a model organism to examine how roads affect the abundance, distribution, and genetic structure of a wide-ranging carnivore. First, we compared the distribution of bobcat-vehicle collisions to road density and then estimated collision probabilities for specific landscapes using a moving window with road-specific traffic volume. Next, we obtained incidental observations of bobcats from the public, camera-trap detections, and locations of bobcats equipped with GPS collars to examine habitat selection. These data were used to generate a cost-surface map to investigate potential barrier effects of roads. Finally, we have begun an examination of genetic structure of bobcat populations in relation to major road networks. Distribution of vehicle-killed bobcats was correlated with road density, especially state and interstate highways. Collision models suggested that some regions may function as demographic sinks. Simulated movements in the context of the cost-surface map indicated that some major roads may be barriers. These patterns were supported by the genetic structure of bobcats. The sharpest divisions among genetically distinct demes occurred along natural barriers (mountains and large lakes) and in road-dense regions. In conclusion, our study has demonstrated the utility of using bobcats as a model organism to understand the variety of threats that roads pose to a wide-ranging species. Bobcats may also be useful as one of a group of focal species while developing approaches to maintain existing connectivity or mitigate the negative effects of roads.

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Environmental Management



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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015