North-Central Illinois Bobcat Population Ecology
The North-Central Illinois Bobcat project is a collaboration between Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and is lead by a team of PhD students, Ellen Audia and Katie Buckman, across three research groups at SIU. Bobcats are both an important and elusive predator found in Illinois, therefore managing their populations can be a difficult task for wildlife managers. Bobcats were considered scarce in Illinois during the 1970s, likely due to decades of agricultural expansion, and became state-listed as threatened in 1977. By the 1990s, however, bobcats made a visible comeback and were commonly spotted in southern Illinois. This increase in abundance led to the bobcats’ removal from the state’s list of threatened and endangered species in 1999, and a trapping season for bobcats began in 2016. Since then, research and monitoring of bobcats has largely been focused in southern and western Illinois, where bobcat habitat is thought to be more suitable (more continuous forested lands) than northern Illinois. Bobcat movement, survival, and reproduction is not fully understood in the agriculturally-dominated landscape of north-central Illinois. We plan to trap, GPS-collar, and track bobcats and to determine their movement, survival, and reproduction in this region. The focus of Katie’s dissertation is to study the demographics aspect of the project; she will study reproduction, mortality, and survival of bobcats in North-Central Illinois.