On the western edge of the D.C. metro, elusive bobcats roam the darkness in the hills of West Virginia. Just how many, state biologists would like to know.
They’re enlisting the help of trappers in the state’s eastern panhandle and its Allegheny Mountains region, asking trappers to release the cats back into the wild with tracking collars, according to Gary Foster, assistant chief of the wildlife-management section for the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources.
Mostly active during twilight, the cats are rarely seen and more often heard and may inhabit most every county in the Mountain State, the most forested state per square mile in the contiguous U.S.
The tracking 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 the research needs or conditions of the bobcat.
The study will help biologists refine the population model they use to manage bobcats and guide harvest recommendations in the future, Foster said.
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.