When Karen Flanders and her husband, Dave, recently saw a cat sunning itself in their backyard, they thought it was an ordinary feline taking a nap.
But when they got a closer look, they realized it was a bobcat — nearly 4 feet long and weighing several dozen pounds.
“She was just basking in the sun, grooming herself,” the Chester woman said. “As soon as she heard the slightest noise, she got up and went.”
For two consecutive days in late July, the big cat napped on a stump in their yard. It was the first time they had seen a bobcat in their seven years living on Lady Slipper Lane.
Other Southern New Hampshire residents also are seeing bobcats for the first time as the population begins to rise in the Granite State, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game wildlife biologist Patrick Tate.
Tate and University of New Hampshire wildlife professor John Litvaitis are spearheading a four-year study of the animal’s population and habitat, due to be completed next year.
The study revealed that thanks to warmer winters, the bobcat population has steadily increased since declining in the 1970s and 1980s, when harsher weather reduced the numbers and prey, Tate said. Hunting and trapping of the species was allowed in New Hampshire until it was banned in 1989, he said.
There were approximately 100 bobcats in the state at that time, according to Litvaitis. Now, there are an estimated 1,400, Tate said.
More bobcats are being spotted throughout the Northeast, he said. That includes Southern New Hampshire, where the big cats have been seen in East Derry in the past few weeks.
Bobcat sightings have been a hot topic of conversation in Jennifer O’Neill’s Damren Road neighborhood, where she said a neighbor saw an adult and three babies near rabbit carcasses in his yard.