Without much in the way of potential mates, Jekyll Island bobcat Bullwinkle said goodbye and good night, and moseyed on down the road. That left two bobcats remaining on the island, with no new bobcats joining them, according to data collected over the past year.
“The last time we saw him — the last time we saw Bullwinkle was in this picture,” Jekyll Island Authority Conservation Director Ben Carswell said Tuesday, gesturing at a projected image from a trail camera, at the monthly JIA board meeting. “That photograph was taken at the end of the causeway, and he was headed off and has not been seen since. We wish him well.
“It’s natural for a one and a half year-old bobcat, reaching maturity, to disperse. Probably particularly likely when he finds himself on an island that while it has plenty of prey, plenty of food for an animal in the predator business, he didn’t have any potential for mates that he wasn’t related to, so, time to move on.”
Of the 97 scat samples collected in 2018, 17 proved good enough for DNA testing, and of those 17, researchers were only able to confirm the three they knew to be on the island — Bullwinkle, who left — along with an adult male and an adult female. Those samples came from all over the island, but the bobcats appeared to prefer the south end.
However, additional testing on a larger amount of samples yielded data from the bobcats’ diets over almost a year, resulting in around 80 percent rabbit, 14 percent deer, 4 percent rodent and 2 percent mink.
Carswell said that because the population is so small, and with mortality around every corner, the bobcat population on Jekyll isn’t viable. So, work will continue on collecting data from the remaining two while that’s possible, ahead of an opportunity for rescue, leveraging the assistance of experts with the state Department of Natural Resources and in general outside of JIA.
“Of course, we know that bobcats in a larger sense, a statewide sense, a regional sense, are not a threatened species — they’re not particularly seen as a conservation priority outside of Jekyll, but here they are a conservation priority, because we really believe in the value of predators to stabilize the ecosystems and promote diversity of those systems,” Carswell said.
Meanwhile with historic preservation, there staff and contractors worked on dozens of projects over the past year, including an effort to stabilize the brick at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and $1.385 million in roof replacement and repair. JIA Historic Resources Director Bruce Piatek said the hope is, with the new roofing, it can last around 30 years, instead of around 10, like the previous round of materials.
He also said efforts are underway to halt an erosion problem near the Horton House.
“It’s been an issue there where there was a kind of divot being taken out of the shoreline, heading right to the corner of the cemetery,” Piatek said. “So, we’ve installed a living shoreline as a test project to see how effective that will be, and backfill that area.
“We’re hoping as we observe this over the next 12-18 months it’ll revegetate and be a successful mechanism for us to restore and protect the edge of that shoreline where we’ve had significant erosion that’s destroying, pretty much on a daily basis, both historic and prehistoric information that’s here on Jekyll Island.”
JIA board member Joe Wilkinson, calling in to the meeting from Atlanta, said he’s had talks about securing funding from the state to enlarge the Jekyll campground.
“Y’all are aware, we’ve been talking about the Jekyll campground, and it’s a very successful part of the package,” Wilkinson said. “It has about 80 percent occupancy rate. But, it needs an expansion, and overnight fees cannot fund a needed expansion. So, we are talking with the Governor’s Office for a $1.1 million line item in the budget, 2020, to help make this happen. And given our track record, I feel very confident — our track record on returns — we will get that in the next year or two.”
In other action, the board had first reading on an ordinance that would ban dockless electric scooters and bicycles, as for, among other reasons, they’ve resulted in problems in localities where companies put them out onto sidewalks and the like without discussing with those municipalities the proper permits or management of the process.