Rick Van de Poll
Department of Environmental Studies
Bobcat winter habitat utilization preferences were examined through a backtracking study in the proposed California Brook Natural Area (CBNA) in Cheshire County, New Hampshire during the winter of 2000-2001. A total of 18 field days were devoted to searching for bobcat track sets within the 1752 ha study area using ledge areas as search focal points. A total of fifteen bobcat track sets were followed, covering a total of 6.88 km. Eleven variables including overstory and understory characteristics, prey availability and bobcat behavior were quantified. Bobcat use of hardwood overstory types was significantly greater than use of other types when compared to cover availability (P<0.001). Bobcats used areas in low and medium understory density (P=0.003). The utilization of logs for walking was affected by bobcat track depth (P=0.0421) and bobcats were more likely to utilize roads when deeper snow was present. Bobcat track sets were commonly found within areas of recent logging (40% of track sets) and often crossed skid roads and snowmobile trails (46% of track sets). Track sets as well as known ledge locations were concentrated in the western portion of the study area. Bobcat habitat use and behavior data were compared with data from similar bobcat studies in other regions of New England. The results of this analysis may help to inform wildlife habitat protection prioritization in the CBNA. While further research regarding bobcat populations in the surrounding vicinity is warranted, this study provides important baseline information for the estimation of bobcat winter habitat use in the CBNA.