Virginia Tech biologists researching bobcat habitats in Albemarle County

Some bobcats in western Albemarle County have caught the attention of a group of biologists from Virginia Tech.
Published: Apr. 23, 2023 at 6:27 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Some bobcats in western Albemarle County have caught the attention of a group of biologists from Virginia Tech.

Bobcats’ travel patterns are among the widest of any species in Virginia, and tracking their movement allows biologists to determine what areas need to be preserved for wildlife to thrive.

Brett Jesmer is a professor at Virginia Tech overseeing the Albemarle County Bobcat Habitat Connectivity Project.

“What we’re really missing at this point in time is hard data on where these corridors are and or how we can handle that, and therefore how we can protect them and conserve them,” Jesmer said. “Both the scientific community and the public alike have been increasingly recognizing that protecting habitats is only one part of the larger conservation efforts for conserving wildlife species across the nation, across the world.

The project is focused on finding the optimal ways for humans and wildlife to coexist and to avoid the destruction of habitats.

“The second really important part is making sure that those patches are connected so that animals can move between those patches to access the food, water, shelter and mates they need to survive and reproduce,” Jesmer said.

Nicole Gorman is a grad student working on this project, and she says bobcats are perfect for finding answers to these questions.

“They use a whole variety of habitats like forest, agriculture, suburban, mixed use logged areas, and everything. And they can also travel a lot. I’ve seen them disperse over 200 miles,” Gorman said.

Gorman has been in the field researching these cats for the last four months, and she says their success or failure directly impacts us.

“Protecting wildlife is super important because the whole ecosystem, every part of it, is important and plays a role. We need predators. We need herbivores, we need the plants and the fungi and all the different pieces of the system for it to function as it should, which also helps humans because we’re a part of the system as well,” Gorman said.

The study involves capturing bobcats and equipping them with tracking device, and releasing them back into the wild. The tracker provides an updated satellite location every two hours.

“By doing that, the bobcats are telling us what their preferred habitats are and what their preferred travel corridors are, and we can use some fancy statistics to model all of that, and then we then we can predict that across the landscape,” Jesmer said.

The group plans on conducting more research projects like these in the near future.

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