Donovan, T.M., M.D. Freeman, A. Howard, K. Royar, H. Abouelezz, and R. Mickey. 2011. Quantifying home range habitat requirements for bobcats (Lynx rufus) in Vermont. Biological Conservation 144:2799-2809.
We demonstrate how home range and habitat use analysis can inform landscape-scale conservation planning for the bobcat, Lynx rufus, in Vermont USA. From 2005 to 2008, we outfitted fourteen bobcats with GPS collars that collected spatially explicit locations from individuals every 4 h for 3–4 months. Kernel home range techniques were used to estimate home range size and boundaries, and to quantify the utilization distribution (UD), which is a spatially explicit, topographic mapping of how different areas within the home range are used. We then used GIS methods to quantify both biotic (e.g. habitat types, stream density) and abiotic (e.g. slope) resources within each bobcat’s home range. Across bobcats, upper 20th UD percentiles (core areas) had 18% less agriculture, 42% less development, 26% more bobcat habitat (shrub, deciduous, coniferous forest, and wetland cover types), and 33% lower road density than lower UD percentiles (UD valleys). For each bobcat, we used Akaike’s Information Criterion (AIC) to evaluate and compare 24 alternative Resource Utilization Functions (hypotheses) that could explain the topology of the individual’s UD. A model-averaged population-level Resource Utilization Function suggested positive responses to shrub, deciduous, coniferous forest, and wetland cover types within 1 km of a location, and negative responses to roads and mixed forest cover types within 1 km of a location. Applying this model-averaged function to each pixel in the study area revealed habitat suitability for bobcats across the entire study area, with suitability scores ranging between −1.69 and 1.44, where higher values were assumed to represent higher quality habitat. The southern Champlain Valley, which contained ample wetland and shrub habitat, was a concentrated area of highly suitable habitat, while areas at higher elevation areas were less suitable. Female bobcat home ranges, on average, had an average habitat suitability score of near 0, indicating that home ranges consisted of both beneficial and detrimental habitat types. We discuss the application of habitat suitability mapping and home range requirements for bobcat conservation and landscape scale management.