Understanding interactions among bobcats (Lynx rufus) may lend insight into less understood life history traits of the bobcat and improve management of the species. Moreover, data from manipulative experiments pertaining to bobcat ecology are largely absent from the scientific literature. Therefore, we investigated bobcat spatial organization and habitat use after an experimental population reduction on an 11,735-ha study site in southwestern Georgia, USA. In response to an approximate 50% population reduction, male bobcats shifted their space use (26.4 ± 1.7% more shift relative to baseline) more (F1,3 = 138.08, P = 0.001) than males where no bobcat removal occurred (28.1 ± 5.5% less shift relative to baseline). Dispersion of radio locations for all female bobcats increased following the population reduction; however, females that were exposed to the removal of a potentially interacting male remained more (F1,14 = 6.78, P = 0.021) static (increase in dispersion = 7.8 ± 7.3%) than females that were not exposed to removed males (increase in dispersion 41.2 ± 11.1%). Male bobcats likely shifted their central tendency to increase breeding opportunities, whereas the difference in dispersion of female radio locations may be the result of decreased intraspecific competition. Alternatively, reduced dispersion of females following harvest of neighboring males may increase the likelihood that remaining males will interact with females for breeding purposes. Neither habitat use nor habitat selection differed as a function of removal, suggesting that density-dependent habitat selection was not occurring on our study site. Although it is generally accepted that male bobcats use space to increase breeding opportunities, our study suggests that male bobcats may also influence space use of females, but in counterintuitive ways. Because bobcat movements are altered by harvest of neighbors, we suggest that inferring habitat quality for bobcats based on their space use patterns should be avoided unless researchers incorporate knowledge of both short- and long-term population perturbations.
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Vol. 72 • No. 1