In 1988-1989, 32 bobcats Lynx rufus were reintroduced to Cumberland Island (CUIS), Georgia, USA, from which they had previously been extirpated. They were monitored intensively for 3 years immediately post-reintroduction, but no estimation of the size or genetic diversity of the population had been conducted in over 20 years since reintroduction. We returned to CUIS in 2012 to estimate abundance and effective population size of the present-day population, as well as to quantify genetic diversity and inbreeding. We amplified 12 nuclear microsatellite loci from DNA isolated from scats to establish genetic profiles to identify individuals. We used spatially explicit capture-recapture population estimation to estimate abundance. From nine unique genetic profiles, we estimate a population size of 14.4 (SE = 3.052) bobcats, with an effective population size (Ne) of 5-8 breeding individuals. This is consistent with predictions of a population viability analysis conducted at the time of reintroduction, which estimated the population would average 12-13 bobcats after 10 years. We identified several pairs of related bobcats (parent-offspring and full siblings), but ~75% of the pairwise comparisons were typical of unrelated individuals, and only one individual appeared inbred. Despite the small population size and other indications that it has likely experienced a genetic bottleneck, levels of genetic diversity in the CUIS bobcat population remain high compared to other mammalian carnivores. The reintroduction of bobcats to CUIS provides an opportunity to study changes in genetic diversity in an insular population without risk to this common species. Opportunities for natural immigration to the island are limited; therefore, continued monitoring and supplemental bobcat reintroductions could be used to evaluate the effect of different management strategies to maintain genetic diversity and population viability. The successful reintroduction and maintenance of a bobcat population on CUIS illustrates the suitability of translocation as a management tool for re-establishing felid populations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation