A bobcat captured and collared more than a year after the Woolsey Fire gave birth to three kittens, which were discovered inside an oak tree cavity.
The three kittens, named, B-379, B-380 and B-381, were found after researchers were tracking their mother, B-370, using radio signals and GPS points from her collar, according to the National Park Service (NPS).
Service biologists located the female bobcat in a cavity of a large oak tree on April 15. She was in an area that was intensely burned during the Woolsey Fire that swept through Calabasas and other areas in the Santa Monica Mountains in November 2018.
Since 1996, biologists at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) have been studying the ecology and conservation of bobcats in and around the park to learn more about how they persist in an urban landscape.
Last month, biologists suspected that B-370 was “denning” because she repeatedly returned to the same spot, an indication that a female has likely given birth. However, when they arrived on-site, they had trouble locating the den because it wasn’t in a typical location, according to researchers.
“I swear she’s in this tree, but I can’t find her,” biologist Joanne Moriarty recalls saying into her hand-held radio to another biologist nearby. “Then I look up into this little tiny hole in the tree, and her face is just poking out at me. Of course, she’s been staring at me the whole time. I just happened to be in the right spot.”
On this occasion, Moriarty used a remote camera held on an extension pole to peek into the tree to confirm the presence of a bobcat and three kittens. The biologists then left the area and returned the following day while the mother was away from her den, presumably hunting.
Using a ladder, biologists captured the kittens, one by one, and brought them down safely. The kittens were weighed, measured, and given a general health check by researchers. They were also ear-tagged for future identification before being returned to their tree cavity home.
Moriarty has been studying bobcats in the area for 17 years, and she says what is striking about this den is its location. Dens are often in hollow areas found in thick brush, specifically in chaparral or coastal sage scrub vegetation. The second most common location for bobcat dens is in woodrat nests, the large piles of sticks and leaves that woodrats build and live in for generations.
Denning in a tree is unusual, she said. Scientists believe the bobcat used the tree cavity as a den because much of the existing natural habitat in the surrounding area was destroyed after the Woolsey Fire. Very little vegetation has grown since the devastating fire destroyed close to half of the natural area in the Santa Monica Mountains and about 2/3 of the natural habitat in the Simi Hills.
B-370 was initially captured in the Simi Hills. When captured, biologists noted that she appeared to have nursed in the past. They took hair and tissue samples and fitted her with a radio collar so her movements could be tracked. She was then released.
An average bobcat litter size is two to three kittens. The sex ratio overall in litters is generally split, 50/50 male and female. B-370’s litter had one female and two males.
Bobcat kittens typically stay in the natal den for four to five weeks, then the family will move on to other dens that they use for shorter periods. Researchers are not sure why they do this, but they speculate that it’s likely an anti-predator behavior. The mother will typically also keep them in dens until they are 12 weeks of age, and then at that point, they will follow her as she hunts and goes about her day.
The mother cares for the kittens, in general, until they are nine to 11 months of age. They then slowly become independent, but they will still occasionally check in with her every so often.
Between October and February, researchers generally employ from 6 to 12 traps to monitor the population by capturing, tagging, and radio-collaring animals. Trapping ceases in late winter because female bobcats give birth in early spring and care for their young.
The bobcat trapping season ended earlier this year, in February, with three new bobcats captured. B-370 lives in the southeast end of the Simi Hills, and biologists are also tracking a bobcat, B-373, in the Santa Clarita area as part of a project evaluating the effects of the 5 Freeway.
To learn more about the bobcat study, visit here.
L.A. Animal Services Recognised By Leader In ‘No-Kill’ Shelter Movement
Los Angeles Animal Services has been recognized with the Touchstone Award from Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare organization dedicated to ending the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters.
In March, L.A. became the largest “no-kill” city in the country, with a 90.4% save rate in 2020, almost double the rate in 2012, which was 56%, according to Best Friends Animal Society.
When a shelter is saving at least 90% of the dogs and cats that come through its doors, that shelter is designated as a no-kill shelter. The organization factors in that about 10% of pets who enter shelters have medical or behavioral circumstances that may warrant humane euthanasia, not lack of space.
“It’s incredible to see so many shelters around the nation taking dramatic steps to increase lifesaving,” said Brent Toellner, senior director, national programs for Best Friends Animal Society. “Whether it be through new programming, progressive leadership or better collaborative partnerships, these groups are showing that lifesaving success is possible regardless of a shelter’s size or location.”
Together, Best Friends and its network partners are working to achieve no-kill for dogs and cats nationwide by 2025.
“Reaching this goal will mean that every shelter in America is getting the community support it needs to save every dog and cat who can be saved,” said organization officials. “It means healing the animals who can be healed, treating behaviors that can be treated, and prioritizing public health, safety, and a high quality of life for both pets and people in our communities.”
L.A. Animal Services was selected for the Touchstone Award based on national shelter data and work from 2020, compared to the previous year,
“With Best Friends, we have built a coalition of more than 140 partners dedicated to working with us in creating a safety net for the animals most in need of our shelters,” said Dana Brown, interim general manager for L.A. Animal Services. “We’ve learned that collaboration is key, between shelters and the community — rescue partners, volunteers, adopters, and fosters — and these relationships are critical for us in our life-saving efforts to continue to assist and care for ‘both ends of the leash’ — pets and the people who love them.”
For more information about Los Angeles Animal Services, visit here.