Bobcats: the ‘unseen’ cat in your backyard

How can a secretive predator live near millions of people? There are many parts to this question and the CT Bobcat Project was initiated to enhance our understanding of how bobcats live in close proximity to people.

Bobcats live in many types of ecosystems, including forests, grasslands, and desserts. Their occurrence in all these ecosystems suggests that bobcats are habitat generalists. Yet, although they establish territories in many types of ecosystems, bobcats seek out very specific places within a territory. In other words, bobcats are habitat specialists that move among patches of very specific habitats found within their territory.

Bobcats in this region live in a novel ecosystem: an intermixed ecosystem. Our landscape is forest but houses are imbedded within the forest every 1 to 2 acres. As the bobcat population has increased, bobcats are now living in close proximity to people. A primary goal of the CT Bobcat Project is to determine how bobcat occupancy changes within the mosaic of urban development within the forest. We have deployed wildlife cameras throughout the state within areas that differ in housing density. Analysis is currently ongoing, but the first result… bobcats were photographed on all cameras placed in areas with housing densities less than 1000 houses / km2.

An additional goal is to quantify habitat selection within bobcat territories, so we needed to trap bobcats to attach GPS collars. To decide where to place the traps, we initiated an iNaturalist webpage and look what happened. Although bobcats are generally secretive animals, when you ask 3.5 million people to look for these rare, secretive animals in their backyards, more than 800 people reported seeing bobcats. Thank-You!

With the help of many human eyes, DEEP wildlife biologists, and the trapping community, over 100 GPS collars were attached to bobcats in 2018 and 2019. The collars fall off 300 days after being attached to a bobcat. The last collar is scheduled to fall off in March 2020. To learn more about bobcats and where the collars have been found, listen to this All Things Considered WNPR radio story. You may want to check your backyard. There might be a bobcat collar waiting to be found.

Data collection is just the first half of a research project, the second half is data analysis and write-up. Thus check back to this page, more results are yet to come.