L. Mike Conner

Title of study - Space use patterns and habitat utilization by bobcats in managed forests of Mississippi Date of dissertation - December 1995

Little is known concerning bobcat (Felis rufus) ecology in managed forests. Therefore, bobcat habitat and space use were examined under 2 different forest management regimes. Thirty bobcats (9 males, 21 females) were radio-monitored during 1 Jan 1989 - 31 Dec 1993 on Tallahala Wildlife Management Area (TWMA) and Georgia-Pacific Corp. (GP) landholdings in east-central Mississippi. Twenty-nine bobcat-years (12 male, 17 female) were sampled on TWMA. Thirteen bobcat-years (3 male, 10 female) were sampled on GP. The mean Euclidean distance between all possible pairs of animal locations (delta) was evaluated as an index of animal dispersion. Simulation analyses indicated that clumping of locations led to decreased values of delta. Delta increased (P <0.001) when simulated sample size was increased from 50 to 150 locations; however, this difference was small (< 3%). Delta should be used in conjunction with standard home range methods to address hypotheses concerning space use patterns within the home range.

Bobcat home range sizes and deltas did not differ (P = 0.14 and P = 0.60, respectively) between study areas. Male home ranges and deltas were larger (P <0.10) than females. Space use patterns within bobcat home ranges did not appear to differ between study areas. Female bobcat locations were more clumped (P = 0.08) than male bobcat locations.

There was no difference (P > 0.10) in bobcat habitat use among sexes, study areas, or years. Agriculture was either the least preferred or most preferred habitat depending on scale of investigation. In general, habitats known to produce abundant prey were preferred over other habitats.

Logistic regression was used to develop bobcat habitat suitability indices (HSI) for each sex/study area combination. These models indicated that habitat composition may influence importance of habitat variables. Sex-specific bobcat HSI models were developed using locations from both study areas. Female bobcat HSI decreased as distance to roads increased, distance to primary creeks decreased, slopes decreased, and stands aged. Male bobcat HSI decreased as distance to maintenance roads increased and stands aged.

Bobcat home range size and delta were not related to HSI (P > 0.10). Mean HSI was greater (P <0.01) on GP than on TWMA. Spatial distribution of bobcats may be a function of factors other than perceived habitat suitability.