Bobcat sightings in RI are on the rise as the elusive cat population grows


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Nature lovers in Rhode Island this fall may be lucky enough to spot a striking and elusive wild animal, a bobcat.

Sightings have become more frequent in recent years, and bobcat kittens born in June and July are emerging from their dens and learning to make their way through the wild, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. .

“Lately we have received many reports of bobcat sightings,” the division said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “The end of summer means the end of breastfeeding for these little felines… Since birth, the kittens have depended on their mother for food. Now they are ready to learn to be independent!”

After: First he thought it was his cat, then he realized there were three bobcats in his garden.

How many bobcats live in Rhode Island

Still an unusual sight in Rhode Island, bobcats are sometimes confused with other types of cats.

“He’s such a striking animal – truly one of the coolest animals in Rhode Island, in our opinion – and so much bigger than a house cat that sometimes people call our dispatcher to tell him they’ve seen a mountain lion,” said Michael J. Healey, DEM public affairs director.

There are no mountain lions in Rhode Island, Healey said, but as of last year researchers estimated the Ocean State was home to 80 to 85 bobcats.

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Bobcats hunt for a meal in Narragansett

David Carrington of Narragansett spotted three bobcats, possibly a mother and her kittens, successfully chasing a meal in his yard on Wednesday.

The Journal of Providence

Through the end of August, the DEM had received 38 reported bobcat sightings this year. In 2010, the department only received one report, but the numbers began to rise after that, peaking at 119 in 2018. Last year there were 86.

“Obviously these numbers do not correspond directly to populations, but research by URI and RIDEM, DFW suggests that the Rhode Island bobcat population (like the majority of the range states for this species) is on the rise,” Sarah Riley, chief implementation aide for the Fish and Wildlife Division, said in an email.

Most of the sightings this year, 67%, are from Washington County, according to Riley. The rest came from Providence County, 30%, and Kent County, 3%, she said.

After: Bobcats ‘do what they want’ – sometimes that means hanging out in a Warwick yard

A pair of bobcats, a male and a female, make regular appearances on Elise Torello’s track recordings in South County. Torello first installed video cameras in 2016 and occasionally captured a bobcat, but it’s now unusual for a week to go by without seeing one.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Torello, who posts his videos on Facebook and YouTube.

Are bobcats dangerous?

Powerful and fast, bobcats are good hunters. They eat rabbits, squirrels, other small mammals and birds.

“We haven’t heard of any incidents or situations that could be considered a dangerous encounter. Most reports are of someone seeing one in their yard or crossing a road,” Healey said.

Riley said: “In general, bobcats are very wary of people and will run away if approached or startled by a loud noise. They usually don’t stay in a neighborhood very long, and their reclusive propensity and relatively wide reach means they often go unnoticed.”

Torello says she’s often in the woods checking her cameras and isn’t scared. “I’m sure I’m being watched” by animals such as bobcats, coyotes and fishermen, she said.

How do you know it’s a bobcat and not a puma or the neighbor’s cat?

Adult bobcats typically stand 1 ½ to 2 feet tall and weigh 30 to 40 pounds, and “although they are larger than a regular house cat, they are the smallest wild cat native to the United States. “Healey said. They have black ears with white spots and a short “bobbed” tail, which is where the cats got their name, Healey said.

Bobcats are typically only active at dawn and dusk, but they can be seen more frequently when raising their young, according to the DEM. They can be attracted to your yard if there’s a bird feeder — not for birdseed but for birds and also squirrels that frequent the feeder, Healey said.

“In my opinion, bobcat sightings are a rare and exciting occurrence,” Riley said, noting that she’s only seen one in the wild “so far.”

If you’ve spotted a bobcat, the DEM wants to know. Visit www.dem.ri.gov/reportwildlife to report your information.

[email protected]

(401) 277-7614

On Twitter: @jgregoryperry

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