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.
(Richmand, NY 08/12)
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.
(Richmond, NY 08/12)
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!