Friday, November 13, 2009

Encountering Bobcats in New Jersey

Bobcat by Chris Davidson via

The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is one of NJ's endangered mammals. The are not usually seen by residents because of their habits, but I was not shocked to read an article recently in via The Daily Record that a photographer was able to get a shot of one last month in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

"I was doing nature photography and in early spring, I spotted it numerous times," George Draney recalled. So be began staking out a narrow, scrub-lined path twice a week, for about three or four months. A couple of times the bobcat crept by him but was gone before he could shoot a photo, he said.

The morning he finally got the shot, he was sitting in his car near the path and the bobcat was between 25 and 50 yards away, he said.

"I saw it going up the pathway in a hurry, so I thought to make a noise to make it look my way," Draney said. "So I whistle real loud, and it stopped. When I shot, it turned, and I got two more shots."

He described it as appearing healthy, about the size of a medium dog and weighing about 25 pounds.

The State estimates our population of bobcats to be at least 90, with most living north of Route 80.

They had disappeared from NJ by the early 1970s because of habitat loss. About 20 bobcats (from Maine) were reintroduced from 1978 to 1982 to repopulate them here.

One unfortunate indicator of their return are the dozen road kills found in the past year, including one on Route 46 in Parsippany near the Boonton Reservoir this past spring.

Taxonomically, bobcats belong to the order Carnivora, or carnivores, meaning that they are
primarily flesh-eaters. They are members of the Felidae family and are commonly known as felines. All members of this family look somewhat similar in appearance. (here is a comparative track guide)

Bobcats live in both the northern and southern portions of NJ. In the north, typical bobcat habitat consists of large areas of contiguous forest and fragmented forests interspersed with agricultural areas or early succession vegetation.

Bobcats often use areas with rock outcrops, caves, and ledges that provide shelter and cover for hunting, resting and rearing young. Where rocky areas are not available, swamps, bogs, conifer stands and rhododendron and mountain laurel thickets provide good cover and excellent hunting grounds.

In southern New Jersey, dense thickets of briars and conifers serve as resting and escape cover, so the bobcat have the ability to adapt to a wide variety of habitat types and prey species.

The Delaware Water Gap and other areas of Kitatinny Ridge are the best habitat areas the state has for bobcats, says Mick Valent, a wildlife biologist for the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, who said there's no reason to doubt Draney's account.

State biologists have found bobcat tracks and scat in the Water Gap area, and have photographed them there with motion-sensitive cameras baited with scent, Valent said.

Bobcats are so shy that they pose no danger for people, and are so reclusive that you would be lucky to actually see one.

Their individual territories ranging from one square mile to 25 square miles. Habitat continues to be the major problem in maintaining their numbers. They find a good supply of mice, chipmunks, squirrels and birds in the areas where they exist.

NJDEP document on bobcats

Bobcats in the Conserve Wildlife Newsletter, Winter 2007


  1. AnonymousMay 22, 2011

    I live in Cedar Grove, Essex County, and I have seen bobcat tracks in snow on Second Watchung Mountain. But I have never seen one.

  2. I believe I saw one at the end of Westbelt Road in Wayne walking into the wooded area there. It's not far from Great Piece Meadows which would probably be a hospitable habitat.

  3. I live in Howell NJ and I saw a grey bobcat today in my backyard. I live in a boggy forested area. He looked about thirty pounds and very much healthy. His coat against the sunlight almost looked silver in color. A magnificent animal!

  4. I live in North Howell,NJ and came upon a 25 pound Bobcat in my back yard. I must have disturbed it as it was nestled in thick brush surrounding my home. We had a number of rabbits, squirrels, voles, etc. but I have noticed a sharp decline in numbers around my home. I now know the reason. I reported it to animal control but they did not show much interest in pursuing it.

  5. Local animal control might not be interested - but you should notify NJDEP of any endangered sighting. Info is at

  6. AnonymousJuly 16, 2014

    GEORGE DRANEY; to see a BOB in the wild, was the greatest photo I've ever planned. waiting for almost three month, when you knew the footprint was a Bob
    researching to find out there nature, to get an insight ( THE TIME OF DAY ), he might walk through his twenty mile zone when would cross my path, and for it to come about with picture , well I was awe struck.

  7. bobcats are found all up&down eastcoast!