Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bobcats in Westchester Update

In February 2010, we posted a blog about Bobcats in Westchester, as well as an article in our membership newsletter, in an attempt to gather additional bobcat sightings from area residents.  At that time, we had a total of 13 reported sightings between October 2005 and February 2010, the last of which was accompanied by some photographs from a homeowner in Armonk, NY.

Since that time, we have gathered an additional 26 reported sightings to bring our current total to 39 reported sightings since October 2005.  The embedded map below shows all the places where a bobcat was observed and reported to us.  The colors represent the year in which the sighting took place.  Click on the pinpoints for additional information about each sighting.


View Westchester County Bobcat Sightings in a larger map

There are some interesting clusters of sightings that are beginning to develop in a few locations on the map.  Obviously, the largest concentration of sightings comes from the Bedford/North Castle area where we are located.  This is likely due to the fact that a number of people in our "neighborhood" are aware that we are interested in sightings and are more likely to report them.  But there are other small clusters near Yorktown Heights, North Salem, and Lewisboro.  Something that I find particularly interesting are the sightings in the southern portion of the county, including Greenburgh, Tarrytown, Valhalla, and the most recent report in Rye Brook.

So what does this information tell us?  Well, I don't know just yet.  There are a couple things that we've learned already: (1) Bobcats may not be as rare as we originally thought in Westchester, (2) Sightings are not limited to the northern (more rural) portion of Westchester, and (3) There are more new questions than there are new answers about how this animal lives in our area.

A lot more reported sightings (and photos and physical evidence) are needed to lead us toward some solid conclusions about where Westchester's bobcats prefer to live, what they prefer to eat, what size of a home range do they occupy, and approximately how many of them live around here.  That's a lot of questions to answer about an animal that's difficult to observe and Westchester County is quite a large place.

For now, we're focusing further effort on learning how frequently bobcats utilize the habitat present at the southern end of the sanctuary.  In April, while running a set of motion-activated cameras (i.e. game cameras) to study our deer population, we captured three photos of a bobcat on the same camera on the same day.




This is series of photos was more than a pleasant surprise.  We had hoped for maybe one photo during the month the cameras were in use, but three photos in one day was great!  And the third photo above caught the bobcat urinating (scent-marking) on the stone wall.  Look closely (click on the photos to enlarge) and you'll notice the middle photo shows the end of the stone wall is dry, and the last photo shows it with a noticeable wet spot.  And look who showed up later that day and took notice of the bobcat's calling card.


So the cameras are back out in the forest for the next couple of weeks, and we are hoping to capture some additional photos to gain an understanding of how frequently we can capture a bobcat on camera.  This may shed some light on how often our preserve is being utilized by these interesting critters.  If we have any additional photos after retrieving the cameras, we'll post everything right here.

In the mean time, if you observe a bobcat in the Westchester area, please report your sightings (with pictures/descriptions) via email to westsanc@optonline.net or call our office at (914)666-8448.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist