Bobcat City – Studying Urban Cats – Texas Parks and Wildlife [Official]

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NARRATOR: Julie Golla
is a graduate student. When she is home, she looks
after a housecat. (cat purring) (phone alert) NARRATOR: But when she leaves
home, it is often because another kind of cat is calling. JULIE GOLLA: The allure of
cats and their strength and their stealth…. They’re pretty fascinating. (camera clicks) NARRATOR: Julie is studying
bobcats, and where she is finding them might surprise you. (car honks) NARRATOR: With Texas Parks and
Wildlife, Julie is researching these wild cats in between
urban Dallas and Fort Worth. – We’re hoping to answer some
very basic questions about urban bobcats- something
that we know very little about. We do know a decent amount
about them in rural areas, there have been a number of
bobcat studies here in Texas, but nothing urban. We’re genuinely looking at
an area that is completely encompassed by
human development. JULIE: We’re looking at just how
bobcats move in the city areas. It started out with cameras. Cameras have been very
important, not only to see the number of animals but
to find those hotspots, where we can catch them in a
quick and efficient manner. We’ve gotten quite a
few bobcats on camera. Let’s see what we’ve got. On cameras where we do
get bobcat traffic, that’s where we’ll
put our traps. Opossum, armadillo, mmm hmm, and
then another bobcat walks by. I thought we were going to have
a hard time finding cats to catch in these really urban
spots, but there’s no shortage of bobcats, and so I think
people will be surprised. (golfer hits ball) DEREK: When they’re developing a
golf course they don’t realize that the strip of trees between
the fairways is serving as a corridor for wildlife, but
it works quite well for us. (water flowing) NARRATOR: In Euless, all around
the Texas Star golf course, wildlife corridors
are identified. Then the real
intensive work begins. – Between seven to ten
traps are open at once. With one person running a trap
line, I can’t do much more than that, and we’ve been
trapping for about 10 weeks. That’s good. NARRATOR: Julie is no stranger
to catching carnivores. She has worked with
mountain lions and wolves in other states, but baiting for
bobcats has its own challenges. DEREK: The trouble is when you
put a lot of scent down, a lot of stinky, nasty stuff
and then you’re crawling on your belly. (laughs) NARRATOR: Odors only go so far. DEREK: Make it rain! NARRATOR: Attracting bobcats
requires some cat psychology. – They’re like housecats,
they’re curious, they like smells, they like
feathers, they like furry, shiny stuff, and if they
see something move, it’s going to catch
their attention. And fortunately I can
use that to my advantage. NARRATOR: Making cat lures
isn’t exactly glamorous…. DEREK: We’re all
about recycling. JULIE: Fresh ones. I don’t do rotten road kill. NARRATOR: But there is plenty
of evidence that the custom cat toys work. – It’s batting at it. That’s awesome. (laughs) You can tell this one’s
got it and it lets go and it’s probably
flinging around. NARRATOR: Of course,
getting a cat’s attention and getting it to enter a trap
are different things. Bobcats are smart,
wary, and rarely seen. Just ask someone who works
where a cat can be seen daily. MELISSA SOOTER: Bobcats are
about twice the size of your typical housecat. They are native, but people
don’t usually see them because they’re most active when a
lot of people are either just getting up or they’re
going to bed for the night. But they are out there. They’re named the bobcat for
their short little bobbed tail. And uh, just so curious. You can just tell that
they’re constantly thinking. DEREK: Those are just a lot
of nice, natural funnels. NARRATOR: Derek and Julie must
be constantly thinking as well: monitoring cameras, moving
traps, and freshening baits. JULIE: I can put fresh raw
meat- squirrel meat, rabbit meat- in a trap and they
still won’t go in, just because it’s like, meh, I’m just going
to go eat my own squirrel. They’re not food motivated
typically, just because they’re so good at what they do. So that’s where it comes into
like just keying in on their curiosity. NARRATOR: It may seem curious
that a carnivore could even make a living in this
kind of landscape. JULIE: Oh yeah, that’s Euless
Avenue so that’s another un-collared cat. DEREK: Oh wow. Eight o’clock at night, cars
moving by it just doesn’t even care. NARRATOR: The number of cats
photographed suggests they are finding enough to eat. DEREK: The rats, the mice, the
squirrels, the rabbits, the really small, fuzzy critters
that may be quick to us, but not too quick for a bobcat. NARRATOR: Between the roads
and buildings, greenbelts and watersheds connect hunting
and hiding places, but exactly how cats use these habitats
is not fully understood. And that is what the
study is all about. The study area stretches
from the edge of Fort Worth to Irving
and Grand Prairie. GPS collars will store data
about daily movements and ranges of individual cats
for an entire year. But first the cats
must be captured. (trap door closes) Some traps can send an
alert when tripped, but Julie still checks
every trap twice a day. – Driving to check traps —
literally a wild bobcat chase. Here we go. NARRATOR: After ten weeks
of trapping… – This road is due for a bobcat. NARRATOR: …13 cats have
been captured- a few too small for collars. Nine cats now wear
the GPS loggers, but one more is needed
for a full range of data. JULIE: She’s thinking about it. NARRATOR: The pressure is on. Julie’s friend Jim has come from
Idaho to help trap for a week. – I’m a wildlife biologist
for the Nez Perce tribe. Julie and I worked on a
wolf project up there. NARRATOR: But so far the
trappers are plagued by a different animal. JULIE: Oh, little opossum. Just kind of convince this guy
to go on about his morning. The bar is closed. And there he goes. When you’re trying to catch
certain types of animals, you’re always at the risk of
catching by-catch species. Bye bye, dude. Don’t come back. I missed a cat last night
because something fell on the door and made it close, but she
got on top of the trap at one point, looking through
the front of the trap. Maybe she’ll come back
and check it out again, if the weather holds up. ♪♪ (thunder) Nothing. (sigh) ♪♪ DEREK: Capturing the animals,
meeting your quota is your biggest fear at the beginning,
because you don’t know what it’s going to be like. Unless someone’s done it before,
we have no idea if it’s possible or not. JULIE: Alright, nothing here. (sigh) I no longer have my
camera on my tree. My trap has been messed with. It really sucks. ♪♪ Nothing happening. Everything’s come to a
grinding halt it seems. We’re going to get this bobcat. We have to, or we’re
going to go crazy! (laughs) Opossum. I’m somewhat frustrated with
opossums at the moment. Go on! (opossum growling) It’s better than a
stolen camera day. He was a wonderful
good squirrel. JIM: A-1 in his prime. JULIE: Now he looks terrible. ♪♪ Tracks? Those are bobcat. Well there was probably a
opossum in the trap so they couldn’t go in. I don’t know how much more
of this I can even take. Always hope for tomorrow. JIM: I was hopeful that we’d
catch at least one bobcat. Time’s up for me, I have
to leave this afternoon. It’s disappointing
not to catch one, but I fully understand
that’s how it goes. DEREK: 4:52 PM, I was just about
to head out the door and I got a text, so I came to
check the trap and sure enough, there was a bobcat in the trap. Right next to a very busy road,
right at rush hour. (bobcat growls) NARRATOR: Derek is
first on the scene. (bobcat snarls) DEREK: If I had to guess,
I’d say it’s a juvenile male. Looks like he’s a
healthy animal. NARRATOR: Julie is just
dropping Jim at the airport…. – Bobcat! NARRATOR: …but still
happy for the news. (cheers on phone) (laughs) The crew is soon assembled. – Yes! – This would have been an
excellent April Fool’s Day joke. JULIE: If this is a joke,
I’m going to be very upset! (laughs) NARRATOR: But this time
it’s no opossum. JULIE: Let’s do 16 pounds
for him. NARRATOR: The crew readies
a sedative cocktail to be delivered with great care
and an extra-long syringe. JULIE: And Derek’s going to
act as my decoy to kind of keep the cat facing him. (growling) Got him. It takes about five minutes
for the drug to take effect, so we’ll walk away
and let him go down. We’ll wait until about 7:45. (claps) Good sleepy kitty. We’ll go to a much quieter
location, not only for us, but also for the bobcat. Because even though they’re
down and immobilized, they can still hear, they
can still sense light and fast movement that can kind
of make their heart rate faster so we want to keep things as
calm and quiet as possible throughout the capture. Thank you kindly, sir. He’s not able to blink right
now, so this is just artificial tears. NARRATOR: The cat is thoroughly
looked after, while being thoroughly weighed,
measured and documented. JULIE: Seven point five. Some of these cats have a lot of
spotting, almost leopard-like, but yeah, these arm bars,
that’s how we identify them. They’re very easy to see
in nighttime photos, so that’s what we
get pictures of. (shutter clicks) DEREK: Okay. JULIE: You want to get good
solid information, because this is a lot of
work that goes into every bobcat we catch. DEREK: We’re very excited and
happy that we’re adding another member to our
research group… The fact is we still
have a job to do and we don’t take
it very lightly. NARRATOR: As night falls,
additional data is gathered, but not only for their study. JULIE: This is for parasitology,
this is for disease, this is for genetics,
this is for rodenticide. We’re getting a lot of
information from these bobcats. NARRATOR: But for Julie
and Derek’s research… JULIE: Okay, kitty. NARRATOR: …fitting the
tracking collar is the most important step. DEREK: In a year, when we
get that collar back, it could potentially be giving
us 3,500 locations. JULIE: Perfect. Alright he’s kind of waking up. (trap rattling) ♪♪ Just set it down. It’s always stressful doing this
because you take the animal’s wellbeing in your hands when you
work with them like this, but we did everything right, and
everything went really well. He’s doing great right now. DEREK: It’s relieving to
see that the animal is coming out in great shape. JULIE: Just give him
like 20 minutes. – Last cat captured
and collared- excellent day! – Having good days like today
makes me know we can get the most out of this effort. (bobcat snarls) I didn’t even do the
thermometer, okay? I think he’s good. ♪♪ NARRATOR: Four and a half months
after the release, bobcat B14 and most of the
study’s cats can be regularly located by the radio
beacons on their collars. But not all. JULIE: We did have a cat, she
lived off of a six lane street and she ended
up getting hit by a car. We’re sad to have lost a bobcat,
but it’s such valuable information in our study, so we
can learn about the challenges that these cats overcome and
sometimes don’t overcome when it comes to living
in an urban landscape. (radio chatter) NARRATOR: But two more cats
have also gone missing… PILOT: Everybody ready? NARRATOR: …and taking to the
sky holds the best hope for finding them. DEREK: Our main objective is to
locate these missing animals, but kind of a secondary goal is
to find out where they are not. Flying is a little bit more
expensive than it is on the ground, one flight can save
you weeks of ground effort. ♪♪ NARRATOR: Within a half hour of
takeoff, there is good news…. DEREK: Yeah, he’s
definitely in here. He’s even back there-
I can hear nothing, nothing, nothing, pulse. NARRATOR: …One of the two cats
is found just beyond his last known location. JULIE: That’s awesome. We’ll go check up on him
later today and just see what he’s doing. NARRATOR: Within the week the
second missing cat is spotted on a trail camera- the radio beacon
has stopped working, but the collar is still intact. – When you strap electronic
equipment to a wild animal, you’re never quite sure how
that’s going to hold up. It’s definitely that way. I can’t track him with my
telemetry equipment anymore, but I can still try and monitor
his presence with these cameras and we can hopefully try
and recapture him and remove the collar ourselves. NARRATOR: It will be months
before the remaining collars drop off and reveal new secrets
about the lives of urban bobcats, but the study
is already shedding new light on how their habitats
overlap with ours. DEREK: He was spotted
about here? JULIE: Yeah. – But he was also
spotted about here? JULIE: We’ve got cats
sleeping under roadways, they’re hunting on golf courses. We’re finding that bobcats are
in neighborhoods on a daily basis and people rarely see
them and rarely have problems. If you see a bobcat, don’t
approach it or try to feed it. As long as we respect
them as wild animals, we can continue to share
this space with wildlife. DEREK: They’re here. They’re valuable. They’re excellent critters,
and to strive in an urban environment,
that’s incredible. ♪♪

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