Less than an hour’s drive from Washington, D.C., elusive bobcats roam the hills of West Virginia. Just how many, the state’s Division of Natural Resources would like to know.
Biologists are enlisting the help of trappers in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle and its Allegheny Mountains region to help trap and release the cats back into the wild with tracking collars, according to Gary Foster, assistance chief for the division’s wildlife-management section.
Mostly active during twilight, the cat is rarely seen and more often heard.
The program is currently established in Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, Morgan, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph and Tucker counties.
“We’re asking trappers in those counties who catch bobcats to call wildlife biologists so a research crew can place a radio collar on their animal and release it,” Foster said.
“A $100 gift card, useable at several locations, will be awarded to all trappers contributing an animal for the study.”
Animals caught and released will not count toward the trapper’s seasonal bag limit, and trappers may contribute multiple animals to the study. Researchers retain the right to refuse animals based on research needs or condition of the bobcat.
The study will help biologists refine the population model they use to manage bobcats and guide harvest recommendations in the future.
Radio-collared bobcats will yield important data regarding home range size, habitat use, and mortality factors, Foster said. The study will take two trapping seasons to complete and biologists are hoping to collar 30 bobcats each season.
Upon trapping a bobcat in the targeted counties, trappers should leave the animal on site and call one of the numbers listed below during normal business hours, Monday through Friday.
A research crew will be dispatched to process and release the animal. Trappers should not keep animals through the weekend or holidays, as research crews will not be available to respond.
For more information, contact Kirsten Belcher at West Virginia University at 304-293-0050 or 304-216-8482 or Rich Rogers with the WVDNR at 304-822-3551.