UBC researcher uses lynx and bobcat photos to study changing habitats

A UBC Okanagan campus Masters student believes climate change is causing B.C.'s bobcats to move farther north and is also affecting the habitat of lynx, who are adept at moving through thick snow.

Masters student believes climate change is causing B.C. lynx and bobcats to move farther north

One of the photographs of a bobcat, submitted to UBC Okanagan campus Masters student TJ Gooliaf. (Coleman Jackson)

Is climate change responsible for pushing lynx and bobcats populations farther north in B.C.?

That's what a UBC Okanagan campus researcher is hoping to find out, and to do so, he is collecting photographs and videos of the elusive creatures from the public.

Masters student TJ Gooliaf said bobcats and lynx are usually separated by snow depth.

While Lynx have long legs and "massive snowshoe-like paws" for traveling across deep snow, bobcats have really short legs and small feet, so are typically found only in the southern regions of the province — such as the Lower Mainland, Okanagan and Kootenay regions — Gooliaf said.

"With climate change over the past 30 years, I suspect that bobcats have and continue to be expanding northward across B.C. and also up into higher elevations," Gooliaf told Daybreak North host Carolyn de Ryk.

Image of a lynx submitted to TJ Gooliaf.

"We're seeing decreased snow levels. We're seeing earlier spring, and we're seeing a change in the quality of snow and all of this potentially is opening up new areas in B.C. for bobcats to exploit."

Both climate change and the bobcats' expanded territory might affect the habitat of lynx in this province as well, Gooliaf said.

"As bobcats are moving into these new areas, they could actually be displacing lynx," he said.

"Lynx are going to be pushed even farther northward, and up into even the higher elevations."

Gooliaf is collecting photographs and videos from the public to map out the distribution of both species in the province — a project that he said will take over the next year and a half to complete.

Gooliaf has placed ads in newsletters and magazines and also contacted biologists and hunter and trapper organizations to ask if they have photographs or video.

He said he has already received a few thousand photographs from across the province.

Anyone who spots a bobcat or lynx anywhere in the province can send their photo or video, with date and location, to tj.gooliaff@ubc.ca

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: UBCO researcher uses public's photos of bobcats and lynx to study their migration patterns


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