Using Non-Invasive Genetic Sampling to Estimate Mountain Lion and Bobcat Abundance, Age Structure and Diet
Boulder, Jefferson, Gilpin and Larimer counties
- To develop and test non-invasive genetic sampling techniques.
- To collect population data on mountain lions and bobcats.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife issues a limited number of mountain lion and bobcat licenses to hunters every year. Mountain lion populations, in particular, are sensitive to female harvest. Thus, it is critical that wildlife mangers have access to the most reliable population data available. However, collecting mountain lion population data can often times be difficult or expensive to obtain.
Therefore CPW initiated a long-term project to develop non-invasive genetic sampling techniques to provide better, less expensive data on mountain lion and bobcat populations across the state. This project builds off of work completed by graduate student, Kirstie Yeager, in another CPW-led mountain lion study.
Non-invasive sampling techniques, such as hair snares, do not require physically handling an animal, thus these techniques are often less expensive and less intrusive to the animal. However, for non-invasive techniques like hair snares to work, mountain lions need to be lured to a hair-snare mechanism. Yeager's work found promise in the use of animal calls as effective lures and barbed wire snags as effective hair-snare mechanisms. In this study, animal calls lured mountain lions into a cubby in which the animal had to pass under barbed wire. However, building these cubbies was extremely time consuming and mountain lions did not always enter the cubby. Thus, this project aims to further develop hair snags and refine non-invasive genetic techniques for sampling mountain lions and bobcats.
Bobcats are also attracted to these hair snag sites so the opportunity exists to sample both species within the same survey. With the increasing pelt prices for bobcats, it is likely that harvest pressure will continue for bobcats. Bobcat population data can help managers better manage bobcats and justify harvest levels. Thus, bobcat data will also be collected during this study.
The hair collected from hair-snare mechanisms will be used to analyze mountain lion/bobcat genetic data. This genetic data will be useful not only in estimating population size, but also age structure and diet.
The results of this study will help wildlife managers track population changes, set harvest quotas and implement management tools.