Behavior, Ecology, and Disease of Bobcats in Southern California

Science Center Objects

As cities and highways expand to support growing communities, USGS scientists are studying wildlife ecology to inform conservation efforts. Dr. Erin Boydston collaborates with the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others to study the behaviors and disease ecology of bobcats and other carnivores in southern California. Explore this project’s “Science” tab to learn more.

Dr. Erin Boydston studies the movements, diseases, and genetics of bobcats in the protected nature reserves of southern California. Like others, these long-ranging carnivores need open, connected habitats. Increasing urban development — cities, highways and suburban neighborhoods — has fragmented North America’s historic open spaces.

Bobcat with radio collar WERC
(Credit: Lisa Lyren, Western Ecological Research Center. Public domain.)

Isolated “patches” of habitat separated from one another by roads and other urban infrastructure can decrease connectivity across a landscape and affect wildlife behavior and health. Without the ability to easily move between their natural habitats and mingle with others outside their community, carnivores like bobcats can experience lower genetic diversity and associated risks of population collapse. Dr. Erin Boydston partners with multiple non-profit, state, and Federal agencies, and private landowners to understand how human activities are affecting bobcats in southern California.

Specifically, Dr. Boydston examines the influence of recreation and other human activities in protected nature reserves. Using spatial and telemetry data from GPS-collars placed on bobcats, she studies the carnivores’ behavioral, physiological, and immunological responses to fragmented habitats and human activity within reserves. Data collected by the public through apps like iNaturalist are supporting this project across California’s National Parks.

Results from this study can help inform the conservation efforts of resource managers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, and others agencies and non-profit groups.