EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

January 24, 2010

NH bobcat population is thriving

Once rarely glimpsed, bobcats are sidling into view more often these days as their numbers rise and more of them pad across roads and over lawns.

Kingston resident Wendy Royce thought she was looking at a fox on her front lawn one morning last summer.

Her husband snapped a photograph. It was a small female bobcat on her stomach near some scattered birdseed.

It was startling and wonderful, seeing a wild cat in a settled area.

"Excited, very excited," Royce said of the sight.

Wildlife biologists in New Hampshire and Massachusetts said bobcats are more plentiful these days.

Twenty-two years ago, in 1988, when trapping bobcats was outlawed in New Hampshire, maybe only 100 of the spotted cats lived in the state, said John Litvaitis, wildlife professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Today, their numbers in the state could be as high as 1,000 or, at the low end, 200, he said, hesitant to venture a guess.

In Massachusetts, where trapping and hunting of the animals is still allowed, 50 of them were taken last year, the maximum number allowed, said Tom O'Shea, assistant director of wildlife for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

There are an estimated 1,200 to 1,300 bobcats in the Bay State. Their numbers are expanding in the eastern part of the state, O'Shea said.

In New Hampshire, Litvaitis and graduate students are teaming with the Fish and Game Department on a four-year study to gauge the number of bobcats in the state, as well as their habits and movements.

Since December, as part of the study, trappers in southwestern New Hampshire have been capturing them in box traps.

Biologists drug the animals and place global positioning satellite collars on them to track their movements and identify critical habitat.

Just Wednesday, in Antrim, a trapper boxed a 38-pound male bobcat.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
New Hampshire

ET Videos