Follow by Email

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bobcats return to the Finger Lakes Region of NY

I have been enjoying my camera traps for several years now and have been blogging about them for nearly two. But my fascination for them continues to grow. I have been toying with new sets lately and, as expected, have had mixed results. Not all new ideas are good ones. But it was an old fashioned hedgerow set this summer that produced my most unusual capture to date.

We had a group of middle-schoolers scheduled to visit our Muller Field Station this August for a day of outdoor adventure and a taste of science in the real world. I had set out some camera traps a few days earlier and to increase my chances of captures, I used some scent lures we had left over from a previous project. The field station is adjacent to a wetland and although we have only a narrow strip of forest along our old fields, we but up to almost two thousand acres of State-owned lowland ash-maple forest.

I gave the kids a brief introduction to camera traps (some were familiar with them from personal family use) and we predicted what animals we may capture given the habitat. Then it was time to check the cameras. I took them to the sets and explained at each one what my intention was. One was at the mouth of a culvert pipe, one was along a deer trail, etc. and the final camera was in the hedgerow closest to the buildings. I literally chose this location becuase it would bring us back around to the station along the easiest possible route. When we got back to the classroom, I pulled an SD card at random from my pocket without knowing which camera it came from.

Bobcat
(Richmand, NY 08/12)
And the very first photo from that very first card was the photo on the right: a BOBCAT! Well, half a bobcat. To say that I was excited is an understatement. Some of the middle-schoolers fed off my enthusiasm while others were more "Like, it's just a butt!". Well, yes, but it is the butt of a BOBCAT! Not only is a bobcat a pretty cool capture anyplace, it is particularly great here in the Finger Lakes because we are just getting a resident population back after many decades.

But that is news to some people. You see, sightings of bobcats have been much, much more common than the confirmed evidence would predict. Physical evidence of bobcats would most likely be road kill, camera trap photos and incidental captures in foothold traps. These forms of physical evidence have become increasingly more common in the Finger Lakes over the past ten years in particular. So why the "too-common" sightings? Misidentifications, of course. Feral cats are common and it is easy for someone to mistake a big feral cat with a bobcat.

Bobcat
(Richmond, NY 08/12)
It turns out I got two bobcat photos that day in August. The very next photo on the card was this one (left). The purplish color occurs when the light meter causes an incorrect exposure in low light conditions. It doesn't happen often but unfortunately it happened here. With the time stamps so close together, I have no reason to doubt that this was the same cat photographed earlier. I have to admit, the quality of the photos detracted some from the joy, but not much :)




The story isn't over yet. In September, I had my own students at the Muller Field Station for my Wetland Mammals class. Each group of students designes and implements a two-wwek field study with camera traps. This year, Stacy, Jeff and Adriel decided to compare wildlife crossing a beaver dam, a man-made bridge and a likely water route across the channel. The small iron bridge proved to be quite the highway for that two week period with red fox, gray squirrel, raccoon, BLACK BEAR and.... (wait for it)..... BOBCAT. And again there were two photos. This time, the pictures were from an IR camera, so they are black and white.



And a red fox for scale:


It turns out that this was the first confirmed bobcat in Honeoye Valley reported to the NYS DEC. What a thrill for my students and I. We were able to contribute a little to the natural history of this species. Leo Roth from the Rochester NY newspaper The Democrat and Chronicle did a story on it. And the timing of all this was perfect as the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation just released a new bobcat management plan for NY. You can find that plan here.

Looking forward to the next bobcat captures!

8 comments:

  1. Well I see you kept that purple photo to yourself all this time! Very nice pictures, now you just need to get some fisher pics to round out your good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice job on those cats, JVN! Very cool that your students were able to be involved in confirming it's presence!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice, pictures John! Its nice to hear that Bobcats are making their way back to the finger lakes region. You should thank "Pennsylvania" for there's where they are most likely coming from with bobcats commonplace there. :P

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sighted 5/4/13 about 6:30 am along Seneca lake shore in Willard, NY. Black, sleek and slim, looked like a ferret/weasel. Any ID opinion?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. My firsst guess would be mink. That is the right habitat and description. Mink are in the weasel family (as are ferrets). They can be black or nearly black, especially when wet. Great sighting and thanks for visitinng my blog. You can view some local photos of mink here by going to the keyword mink. Enjoy this great day!

      Delete
  5. Yesterday I was walking home from a tree stand and crossed paths with what looked like a fisher. It darreted across the woods. I did get a good look at it before it took off. Kinda looked like a large skunk with no white or massive black squirrel. May have been a mink but I think it was a little to big and it hade a bushy tail. Rock Stream NY.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it was bigger than a skunk, I bet it was a fisher. You should report it to the DEC. They are collecting sightings...
      http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/30770.html
      thanks for the info and good luck in that tree stand this season!

      Delete

Thank you for your comment! It will appear shortly...