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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

While most Americans do not realize it, the US Armed Forces is at work with Wildlife Managers around the Country conducting habitat studies and wildlife restoration projects on the large tracts of land that the miltary owns.........Our nations Military acreage has increasingly handled a dual load of training our troops for wartime as well as optimizing habitat for wildlife.........The latest example of this is taking place in West Texas near Amarillo on what is called the PANTEX PLANT, America's only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility which is charged with maintaining the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile............. The facility is located on a 16,000 acre (65 km2) site 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Amarillo, in Carson County, Texas in the Panhandle of Texas............. The plant is managed and operated for the United States Department of Energy by BWXT Pantex and Sandia National Laboratories............. BWXT Pantex is a limited liability enterprise of Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Group, Honeywell and Bechtel...............In 2006, plant workers spotted a female bobcat and her cubs, and eventually plant officials decided to ink a $28,000 research contract with Texas A & M University to study them.........Now, 18 adult Bobcats and several kittens are being monitored with GPS tracking equipment with the goal of determining how closely the "Cats" live near people and what their home ranges are...........So far,the average range for males tracked is roughly 44 square, miles and the average female home range is 43 square miles............There is a lot of variation in home range size depending on the geographic region. A good rule of thumb is that in the southern end of the range of the bobcats, the home range is smaller than on the northern end of the range. For example, male bobcats in Maine had home ranges of 71 square kilometers, while females had home ranges of 32 square kilometers. In Alabama, on the other hand, the male home ranges were 2.6 square kilometers and the female home ranges were 1.1 square kilometers. Obviously there is a lot of variation, and one factor that may affect home range size could include bobcat population density. When population density is high (ie., when there are a lot of bobcats in a given area), the home ranges will be smaller..................Males tend to overlap 2-3 female home ranges. Females establish their own home ranges that tend to exclude other females, and males establish home ranges that tend to exclude other males................Bobcats are strict, but generalist, carnivores and primarily eat small mammals, birds, reptiles,and even deer when they are lucky.

The Pantex Plant located near Amarillo, Texas, sight of new Bobcat StudyAmarillo.comPantex Plant has long been home to a wide variety of wildlife, ranging from coyotes and rattlesnakes to horned lizards and bats.But an ongoing collaborative project between a Pantex biologist and West Texas A&M University students is taking a closer look at one of the plant’s inhabitants, the wily and elusive bobcat.James Skaggs and Erica Knowles of West Texas A&M University give a bobcat kitten a dental exam as part of a project to monitor bobcats near Pantex Plant.   In 2006, plant workers spotted a female bobcat and her cubs, and eventually plant officials decided to ink a $28,000 research contract with WT to study them.This year, students working with Pantex biologist Jim Ray have trapped and released four.
As part of her master’s thesis project, WT grad student Lena Thurmond is tracking the cats to monitor their habitat choices and determine their ranges. The average range for males tracked by Thurmond and other students is roughly 44 square, miles and the average female home range is 43 square miles.
Through her project, Thurmond, a Houston native, is keeping tabs on 18 adults and several kittens. The best way to monitor the felines is to trap them.
James Skaggs and Erica Knowles of West Texas A&M University obtain blood from a bobcat kitten as part of a project to monitor bobcats near Pantex.
The traps are placed in remote locations with lots of cover, prime bobcat territory. A live chicken is used for bait, but the cat doesn’t get to eat it, so the bird can be used repeatedly. Kittens, she said, usually stay close to their mother and are easily trapped.
“They are with their mother, so usually we get the mother and one kitten in one trap and one of the kittens in another,” Thurmond said. “We’ve had a couple who have been trapped a couple of times. They just sit there like a house cat.”
Although most of the bobcats living near the plant are females, the researchers also have captured males, including one 
battle-hardened brawler, Thurmond said.
A bobcat rests near Pantex Plant, which is working with West Texas A&M University to track, trap and monitor the elusive cats near the plant.
“He had quite a few battle wounds and a slit in his tongue. He’s a rough old guy,” she said,
When captured, kittens, if they are old enough, are tranquilized, ear-tagged with unique colors to identify individuals and given a small chip, much like those used to help identify domestic animals. A small sample of blood also is taken for genetic analysis. Students also take body and tail measurements, record scars or other identifying information, and weigh the cat. An adult male can weigh more than 20 pounds, while females are slightly smaller.
Adults, Thurmond said, are tracked with special GPS collars equipped with springs so they can be remotely dropped and retrieved. The collars, she said, are programmed to record information every six hours and send it to a website; Thurmond also can track her charges via Google Earth.
The plant and the surrounding area, Ray and Thurmond said, provide security and a great deal of brush and other cover for the cats, which largely eat cotton rats, rabbits and birds.
“We’ve seen a momma carrying a snake. We’ve seen them carrying birds,” said Ray, who added researchers also are working with nearby residents to monitor the cats’ comings and goings.
Ray said the project has allowed the researchers to closely observe unique bobcat behavior. Once, Ray was traveling near the plant and spotted a mother with her kittens.
This trapped bobcat was later released near the Pantex Plant.
“I pulled in my pickup between a mother and two kittens. This bobcat let out a birdlike hoot and those kittens dropped to the ground,” she said. “She was communicating to them: Don’t come to me.”
Eventually, the researchers hope to obtain more detailed information from the studies to get a better picture of the bobcats’ ranges, where they live and how closely they live near humans,
Bobcats rarely, if ever, attack humans, Ray said, and usually such cases are in rare instances of an animal infected with rabies.
Thurmond said she and Ray occasionally receive calls from local law enforcement officers when they receive calls about bobcat sightings. Often people will spot a kitten and are concerned the mother has abandoned it. Thurmond’s advice: Leave it alone.
“Normally the kitten is just waiting around for mom to come back,” she said. “If you see a kitten, don’t interfere with it because most likely it’s fine and the mom is going to come back.”

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