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PHOTO: Milestone for Santa Monica Mtns and Simi Hills bobcat study: 300th bobcat captured

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Biologists with the National Park Service just announced a milestone: they've captured the 300th bobcat in their 17-year study of the animal, the longest-running bobcat study ever conducted. The study looks at how bobcats in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills are being affected by urbanization. They capture and sedate the animals, record their vital stats, then affix radio collars, and let them go, mostly back to Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills.

In a news release, the NPS quotes ecologist Joanne Moriarty:  "One of the most striking findings from this study is the discovery of a deadly mange epidemic, as well as a correlated exposure to anti-coagulant rat poisons." The NPS says mange peaked between 2003 and 2006, when half of the collared animals died. At that point more bobcats were being killed by mange than by cars and trucks. But now, the NPS says, "Ten years after the start of the epidemic, bobcat numbers seem to be on the uptick, especially in areas where local populations had essentially been wiped out."

Think you saw a bobcat? Here's how to ID them: "Bobcats (lynx rufus) are small, spotted cats that inhabit most of North America, including all of the United States, most of Mexico and southern Canada.  Often mistaken for mountain lions in southern California, bobcats are much smaller and have a short tail, ear tufts and a pronounced facial ruff, similar to a beard.  They typically weigh between 12 and 25 pounds."

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