DEEP: Bobcats in Connecticut

Bobcats in Connecticut
Understanding Bobcats in the Constitution State


{Bobcat tracks}
Making a Comeback
Bobcats in Connecticut struggled to survive throughout the early history of our state.
 
In the 1800s, deforestation and habitat loss were rampant as farms were established rapidly to meet the demands of an increasing human population. By 1825, only 25% of the state was forested.
 
This habitat loss forced bobcats to prey upon livestock animals and game species; many of these “nuisance” bobcats were sought out and killed by farmers and hunters. The state even had a bounty on bobcats from 1935 to 1971. By the early 1970s, a large increase in the value of bobcat pelts raised concerns that the population could be overharvested.
 
Dwindling quickly, Connecticut's bobcat population was facing extirpation until 1972 when unregulated exploitation was halted and the bobcat was reclassified as a protected furbearer with no hunting or trapping seasons. The bobcat population has since recovered. Additionally, forest habitat also improved; close to 60% of the state is now covered in forest. Today, bobcats are regularly observed in Connecticut.
 
Just how abundant is the state's bobcat population?  This is only one question the Wildlife Division is trying to answer with its Bobcat Project.
 
{Bobcat teeth}
Connecticut's Top Predator
It is important to monitor the bobcat population because the presence of these top predators affects many other species, including prey species and competing predators.
 
In Connecticut, bobcats prey on cottontail rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, white-tailed deer, birds, and, to a much lesser extent, insects and reptiles.
 
Do bobcats in in our state have a preferred prey? Which food sources in Connecticut do bobcats depend on most? To answer these questions, along with others, the Wildlife Division is examining stomach contents to better understand the diet of bobcats living in our state.
 
 
{Bobcat being measured}
The DEEP Wildlife Division is currently conducting a bobcat study to understand the ecological niche of bobcats living within Connecticut habitats.
 
Ecological Niche: the role and interactions a species performs in its environment. How does a bobcat meet its needs for food and shelter; how does it survive; and how does it reproduce? More specifically, how do bobcats interact with the biotic and abiotic factors of their environment?
 
Objectives and Methods: To evaluate diet and habitat use and also estimate the statewide abundance of bobcats. The Wildlife Division is currently live-trapping bobcats and fitting them with GPS collars and ear tags. Twent-five traps have been placed throughout the state and are regularly checked by biologists and experienced volunteers. This year, our goal is to collar 50 bobcats and ear tag every bobcat captured.
 
Telemetry and GPS Collars: Radio telemetry is a valuable tool that allows biologists to track animals from a distance.  In general, biologists are able answer questions related to the location, dispersal, migration, activity patterns, and home range of the target animal.
 
{Bobcat }
Inside The Stomach: To help determine the diet of bobcats, biologists are collecting road-killed bobcats so the stomach contents can be examined.
 
Anyone who finds a road-killed bobcat is urged to call the Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011 and provide location details.
To ensure the bobcat remains until DEEP staff are able to collect it, we additionally ask (if the situation is SAFE) that you move the bobcat further from the road and cover it with branches or a bag.
 
 
Citizen Science: Report Your Observations!
To determine bobcat abundance and distribution, we are relying on help from Connecticut residents to report observations of bobcats. Reports from the public are greatly appreciated and will be invaluable towards understanding the current bobcat population in Connecticut.
 
Observations can be reported in three different ways: {Bobcat with GPS collar. }
When recording a sighting by any of these three ways, please provide the following information: 
  • Date and specific location (including town) of the sighting
  • Number of bobcats observed
  • If there are visible ear tags or collars on the bobcat(s)
  • If the sighting is from a trail camera (and you are able to positively identify the animal as a bobcat)
  • Additional comments or contact information with your observations also are useful.
{Bobcat with iNaturalist logo.}
iNaturalist
iNaturalist will hopefully become the quickest and best way to record a sighting. It is a free phone app that allows you to record observations and add them to scientific projects, share them with other users, and discuss findings with experts and others.
How to Use iNaturalist
To join and start recording your bobcat observations, sign up for free on the app or online at iNaturalist.
  • Make sure you are on the "CT Bobcat Project" page. If not, you can search for the page. 
  • Select the “Add to Observations” tab on the observation form to add your sighting. 
  • Select a specific point on the map where the sighting occurred (automatically inputs coordinates to the database and saves time).
Connecticut Trappers can also help with the DEEP Wildlife Division’s bobcat research project. Any trapper that incidentally captures a bobcat should contact DEEP's 24-hour Dispatch Center at 860-424-3333 as soon as possible. Division biologists will arrange to meet trappers to immobilize, tag, and release the bobcat on site. Trapper cooperation in this study is essential to its success.
 
We greatly appreciate the time and effort of Connecticut residents to report their bobcat sightings. This study would not be possible without volunteer assistance.
 
Visit the Wildlife Division's Volunteer and Citizen Science page to learn about additional opportunities.
 
Content last updated on November 15, 2017.