Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Urbanization leading to inbred bobcats in S. California

The Associated Press
Article Launched: 04/01/2007 01:04:21 PM PDT

IRVINE, Calif.- A new study funded by the city and the Irvine Co. hopes to reveal more information on bobcats living in Orange County.

Erin Boydston, a wildlife researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey, recently captured the team's 48th bobcat, a gray bundle of muscle that was crouched in the back of a cage, growling and hissing.

The animal was sedated, photographed, measured and released back into the wild with a tracking collar after blood and hair samples were taken from it. The collars, which link up with global positioning-system satellites, will precisely map the cat's movements through the area.

Scientists want to examine how bobcats move, where they skirt the edges of the county and which wildlife corridors they favor. Some of the money from the study will monitor coyote movement as well.

"What we learn from these animals hopefully will help decide conservation strategies that would apply to other fields and other countries that have to take that step toward urbanization," said Boydston.

It will take months, however, before the researchers finish assembling and analyzing their data but so far, some results have emerged from the $130,000 project.

Researchers said the small cats, which pose no threat to humans, live closer to homes than previously thought, but rapid urbanization may be taking its toll on the animals.

Some groups are being genetically isolated because houses and freeways stand between them.

Earlier observations suggest some coastal cats are already genetically isolated and somewhat inbred.

Creating wildlife corridors that would let a variety of animals travel from the Santa Ana Mountains to the sea might be one remedy to the problem, although animals would have to pass through heavily urbanized areas and navigate the corridors.


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