Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bobcats and Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey

The Endangered and Nongame Species Program is launching a new project called “Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey,” which maps critical habitat for bobcats and other species and identifies connecting corridors.

A Statewide Habitat Connectivity Plan will serve as a blueprint for strategic habitat conservation and will also highlight additional actions necessary to restore and maintain critical habitat linkages. The end products of this effort will consist of:  1) a statewide map depicting areas crucial for habitat connectivity, and  2) a menu of implementation actions, relating to each identified corridor that will provide guidance on how to secure, or restore each corridor. 

The state Department of Transportation is part of the study group, and could use information from the mapping to create new safe crossings where roads have become barriers, and make existing passage areas safer in high-mortality spots.

Data collected on bobcats is now being analyzed by researcher at Rutgers University, who will come up with a “conservative” population estimate and identify population trends over time. Those numbers will be used to assist with the recovery of New Jersey’s bobcats. In 1991, the bobcat was placed on the state’s endangered species list.

They’re pretty rare to see because they are hard to spot in the wild, but it appears that their numbers are increasing. That's a great comeback story since they had virtually vanished from New Jersey by the 1970s due to habitat loss. Restoration projects began then with wildlife officials bring bobcats trapped in Maine to the state from 1978 to 1982. Those 24 bobcats were released in sections of Warren, Sussex and Morris counties north of Interstate 80.

Bobcats are our only native cat. Although they may look like a housecat (especially when young), they can be twice the size of a domesticated housecat. Females generally weigh 18 to 25 pounds, while males can weigh up to 38 pounds. These predators mostly eat small mammals like rabbits, squirrels and mice, although they can take down small or sick deer and wild turkeys.


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