Something wild: Are there more bobcats in NH? Or just more wildlife cameras?

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A bobcat captured by Dave Anderson’s wildlife camera.

The number of pictures of bobcats in New Hampshire on social media makes us wonder if there are more bobcats in New Hampshire? Or is the growing number of people who own game cameras and post pictures online just making it look like there’s a bobcat population boom?

Dave Anderson is part of the trend. “I found a freshly killed deer carcass one winter, so I got some wildlife cameras rigged up and got amazing pictures of a bobcat revealing it, feeding on it, restoring it and scent tag to protect the place,” he says. “It was fascinating to watch.”

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From Dave Anderson’s wildlife camera.

They are a beautiful species. They have their own charisma, says Patrick Tate, fur biologist for the NH Fish and Game Department. “You can see a bobcat slowly moving across the landscape. Sit for hours. And then it turns on a switch where you see its almost superhero abilities to run across the yard, jump off three different objects and catch the squirrel in the air. “

So there are more bobcats in the state – or more wildlife cameras?

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An unintentional close-up of Dave Anderson’s wildlife camera.

Tate says it’s both. We’re going to see more bobcats in more places than ever before thanks to modern technology. And the Tate says there’s a 10-12 percent increase a year in the Bobcat population, based on Bobcat mortality data. Nearby states with bobcat hunting and fishing seasons report similar increases. New Hampshire has not had a hunting and trapping season since 1989.

NH Fish and Game takes a DNA sample from each bobcat mortality, and those data show that there is greater bobcat genetic diversity today than in the 1950s. It means a more adaptable and resilient population.

“We have bobcats from border to border in New Hampshire; from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border,” says Tate. “And based on scientific literature, the White Mountain Range is the approximate dividing line between the two different subspecies of bobcat we have. They are a generalist start, which means they can adapt to a variety of climates, which is why they are all over North America in the lower 48 – almost all states have bobcats. “

Bobcats are also generalists in terms of their diet. They will eat everything from as small as a field mouse to as large as a white-tailed deer, and even reptiles and birds. And do not forget it on the roof of Burger King in Stratham a few years ago!

They pursue their prey, but they are also masterful at lying in ambush. “They’re not a tree climber or a tree hunter, so they don’t need the tail for balance,” Tate says.

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That explains the short, bobbed tail. However, they can still climb and jump and sprint up to 30 miles per hour.

Bobcats are bigger than you might think. “What I consider a large male bobcat is over 30 pounds, even though I kept a 45-pound bobcat that came out of the Tuftonboro area of ​​New Hampshire,” says Tate.

Male bobcats are twice as large as females, and their range is also twice as large. The females have a home area of ​​about 12 square miles, the males closer to 30 square miles. Male bobcats allow some overlap of their home territory by other males, but the females will not allow an overlap with another female’s territory. Of course, if a female home court overlaps a male home court, it’s less of an issue.

Male and female bobcats do not remain mated. “They mate, and then she goes off and goes and does her own thing,” Tate says. “And if she’s still in heat, [she may] mate with a completely different male. So the kittens can have other fathers than their siblings. ”

With the bobcat population growing by 10-12 percent a year and bobcats already existing everywhere in the state, how likely is it that we will eventually exceed the available territory for bobcats?

“It’s inevitable because we have a limited amount of landscape,” Tate says. “Food restriction is generally what limits our wildlife in the state. It’s what makes residential areas rise and fall in a given year. But given our robust deer population, our robust small mammal population in the countryside, in my opinion there will be go some years before we’ll see any major food problems. ”

New technology such as wildlife cameras give us an exciting opportunity to observe wildlife, especially bobcat, which live silently right next to us.

Special thanks to Patrick Tate of New Hampshire Fish & Game.

Something Wild is a joint production of NH Audubon, The Forest Society and NHPR.

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