Friday, November 27, 2015

New Jersey's Wild Cat

Bobbie 2010 2.jpg
Bobcat by Bill W Ca at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Bobcats, Lynx rufus, are active all throughout the year, especially at night, and are New Jersey's only wild cat.

These medium size felines can weigh between 15-35 pounds and are identified by their small ear tufts, tan, black and white spots and stripes patterned fur. They get their common name from the short "bobbed" tail with black only at the tip.

The much larger adult mountain lions can weigh 80-200 pounds and have a long tail, no ear tufts and solid tawny fur. Don't worry, you won't encounter the mountain lion (AKA cougar, puma, panther, or catamount) on your New Jersey walks. The last ones in the state were killed in Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties around 1840.

Bobcats originally were more widespread throughout the state. Now, they appear to be limited to mainly Sussex, Warren, Morris, Passaic and Hunterdon counties, along with some sighting in the Pinelands.

They are listed as a State Endangered species. The NJDEP uses radio telemetry and camera studies and reports by citizen scientists and physical evidence (scat, tracks and road-kill recovery) to monotor the population. They appear to be widening their range, including moving to and from bordering Pennsylvania and New York.

Still, these rather secretive animals are a rare sighting for the casual woods walker. They live in a variety of habitat types, including woodland, wetland and agricultural settings in our state. My only sighting was on a walk in a rocky, forest area in Sussex County.

A Warren County reader of this blog posted a comment on an earlier post this year and asked if what his home security camera captured was a lynx or bobcat. I replied that no "lynx" exist in NJ, but the bobcat is "Lynx rufus" scientifically and it is NJ's only wild cat species.

Though he wasn't asking a question of semantics, the "lynx" is a member of the cat family found in temperate and colder areas of the Northern Hemisphere. There are four species of lynx: the Canada lynx (which is the one people are thinking of when they use that name), the Spanish lynx, the bobcat, and the caracal.

The difference of lynx versus bobcat is mostly one of size and habitat. The lynx is sadly valued for its warm, lightweight fur. Most lynxes are grayish-brown in color, often spotted or streaked with black. They have short bodies, stumpy tails, and tufted ears.

Here is the reader's video of the visitor passing by his home which he posted on YouTube.

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