Often considered secretive and elusive bobcats are being spotted throughout Connecticut and the population is on the rise. Personally I have seen three, one sadly had been killed on RT 15 in Wallingford, but the other two were alive and looked very healthy. One was seen running across an entrance ramp to RT 84 in West Hartford and one in someone’s front yard on in Oxford. What a thrill to be able to see these amazing animals and have this connection to the natural world.
Thanks to the efforts of the CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection’s Wildlife Division research continues and we are able to learn more about these fascinating, elusive and solitary cats. The bobcat is the most common wildcat in North America inhabiting, except for some portions of Midwestern states, all of the 48 lower states, southern Canada and south to central Mexico. Bobcats are very adaptable and can live in deciduous, coniferous or mixed forests, coastal swamps, deserts or scrubland. Research has indicated that they are much more urbanized than originally thought.
From 1935-1971 in CT there was a bounty on bobcats because they were viewed as a threat to agriculture and game species. They are still hunted in some states for their fur, but in CT as of 1972 they are protected from hunting and trapping.
Bobcats are 2-3 times larger than a domestic cat. Adult males weigh 18-35 lbs. and measure 32-37″ in length. Adult females are a little smaller weighing between 15-30 lbs. and measuring 28-32″. Named for their short “bobbed” tail (about 6″), the tail has a tip that is black on top and white below. Well camouflaged, the bobcat’s color varies seasonally, grayer in winter and tanner in summer with faint black spots. Their legs have black markings, stripes and spots, that are different for each individual. They have projecting hairs, facial ruffs, in the cheek area and small tufts of hair on their pointed ears.
Bobcats are sometimes confused with lynx. Lynx generally live in different habitats, they are found in cold northern latitudes and are adapted to live in snow. They are also sometimes misidentified as being, their much larger relative, the mountain lion. Mountain lions can grow up to 6 ft. long and weigh 100-200 lbs., they have a 2-3 ft. long tail that almost touches the ground. In CT, there has been only one confirmed mountain lion sighting, in Milford in 2011, since the late 1800s.
A medium-sized carnivores, the bobcat is solitary and territorial. They scent mark their territories with urine and scat, and communicate with visual signals and vocalizations. Females are said to vocalize with a sound much like an angry alley cat during mating season. They typically mate during February and March. Gestation is about two months and the female gives birth to 2-4 kittens/litter. The den is located in a secluded area, protected from the weather – in a cave, hollow tree, between rocks or under dense shrubs. Females nurse their kittens for two months and they remain with her for 3-5 months separating before the winter season. It is not uncommon for females to move their kittens to various dens as they get bigger. Moving them gives them more space and limits the chances that potential predators will locate their den. Their lifespan is 12-13 years in the wild. Bobcats may be active throughout the day, but are most active at dusk and dawn.
The stomach contents of road kills have been examined and found to consist of mostly squirrels (43%), rabbits (20%), and deer (10%). Deer are an important food source for bobcats year round. Bobcats do not normally feed on carrion, but have been found to feed on fresh road kill in addition to birds, mice and other small animals. Bobcats have excellent hearing and eyesight and are excellent hunters. They are also good climbers and, as surprising as it might be, good swimmers. They can run up to 30 miles per hour and easily leap 10 ft. to take down unsuspecting prey. They are patient stalkers of their prey. When running they put their back feet in the same spot as their front feet first were to reduce noise when hunting. Like other felines, they sometimes cover or “cache” their prey if they cannot consume it all at once.
The Connecticut Bobcat Project, begun in 2017, has already revealed a lot more information about bobcats. The study has shown that the average home range is larger than previously reported – females home range is 13 square miles and male’s 39 square miles. Bobcats were known to be good swimmers, but one found living along the Connecticut River was found to be swimming out to the islands. Since 2017, 153 bobcats have been ear-tagged and 105 radio-collared with Global Positioning Systems (GPS). The collars automatically detach after a period of time and are collected. They act as “black boxes” and the data is downloaded to determine exactly where the bobcats has traveled. It is estimated that there are 1,500 bobcats in CT and they can be found in all cities and towns throughout the state.
If radio-collars are found they should be returned to the Wildlife Division or if you see one please report your sighting. (See information below.) I hope you get the opportunity to see one of these elusive wildcats!
Wildlife Fact Sheet – Bobcat
Connecticut’s Bobcat Population Flourishing – NBC CT YouTube
Bobcats in Connecticut? Yes, They’re Everywhere – Hartford Courant
Bobcats in Connecticut Project – Report a Sighting
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